A Former Palestinian Salafi Radical Explains How He Came to Love Israel
A continuation from this post.
In order to protect my identity, I will skip some moments in my life that are well known to others.
My story may have started as that of a typical Palestinian, but it shifted direction at a young age, as I tried to find myself and determine who I am and where I belong.
My personality started shaping from the novels I read as a kid, and the people I was surrounded by. Going through the first intifada wasn’t easy; what I experienced and what the Arab media broadcast about the intifada influenced how I felt about the Jews and Israel. Yet I always felt drawn to everything around me. I remember standing by IDF soldiers, intrigued by the rifles they held and how they presented themselves. I wasn’t afraid at that moment.
As any Palestinian you pick a side, be it Fatah or Hamas or the Popular Front. My journey started with Fatah. I loved Abu Ammar (Yasser Arafat), before shifting to the Popular Front, and then Hamas. It were always the figures in my life that influenced where I went.
I became a student of knowledge, digging into my Islamic studies as much as I could in the hope that one day I would become a prominent Sheikh like those I studied under. I became a Salafi – not just any radical Salafi but a Jihadist at that.
I’ve gone through hell in my own life, and I always let people dictate my thinking for me. When it came to either religion or politics, I was influenced by my Sheikhs. But growing up and reading more, I started to question the reasons behind everything. I was no longer convinced by any explanation and fears started to slowly disappear.
It wasn’t until 2018 when something major happened in my life (much happened prior to that, but again for my own safety I will withhold that for a latter time as I see fit). And trust me when I say this – that was the most exciting period of my life.
I had reached the point where I needed to challenge everything I had learned. I challenged God, the scriptures, and Hadith. I challenged everything without holding back. I realized what I learned was only one-sided; not a coin with two sides, but rather an endless amount where everything was a mere opinion of men with biases and politics. Why should I be beholden to all of this when these weren’t even my own personal beliefs, but rather indoctrination?
The first step was challenging my religion, which then led me to challenge my understanding and views on the world. It is here where I needed to see the reality of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. I no longer see all of this through the eyes of another, nor the eyes of a kid who’s understanding of the world was from a place of fear. I set aside everything I saw, and decided to see things from a fresh perspective, removing all of my biases.
I am no longer a Palestinian, but a human being with a new outlook on life.
I see how my people cause damage to themselves and others.
I see the politics and the terror.
I see the agendas, where everyone has his own interests or the interests of others. I see the PA corruption and the Hamas terror.
I see people who are simply trying to live a normal life, no different from us, who have been forced to take extreme measures in defense of self, not from a place of hate.
I see a booming economy alongside ours, which despite the billions of aid, is impoverished.
I see a united people who might argue about the little things, but Israel to them comes first.
I see how we are divided amongst ourselves; we rob our brothers and kill when they have a different opinion from us.
I see how they love, we hate, they are free while we are enslaved to the agendas of others (looking at you Hamas, the servants of the Iranian regime).
I see how among them live people like me – Arabs who are free with equal rights. I see them live amongst the Jews as fellow Israelis. I see they are part of everyday life, how they participate in Israeli government, schools, hospitals, law enforcement and the military.
I see the kind side of this new world that I started to admire, and this admiration has turned into love.
When I came on Twitter, I wasn’t planning to do this every day. I was drawn to a platform where I am safely able to express myself. An encounter with Yoseph Haddad, an Israeli Arab defending Israel and who served in the IDF, was crucial to my growth. At first time, I did not believe he was really Arab, but he confirmed to me that he was. With time I found myself day-by-day drawn to fighting besides you, being welcomed and cheered by everyone. My love only grew more and more, and I learned even more about the reality that had been hidden from me.
I am blessed, honored to be here fighting Jew-hatred alongside you, and I will continue to do so in the hope that one day we might achieve the peace we are all longing for.