Omar Suleiman: Palestine, Gaza, Oct 7, Israel, Resistance, Faith & Islam | Lex Fridman Podcast #411

Omar Suleiman: Palestine, Gaza, Oct 7, Israel, Resistance, Faith & Islam | Lex Fridman Podcast #411

Introduction (00:00:00)

  • Omar Suleiman, a Palestinian-American Muslim scholar and civil rights leader, discusses the situation in Gaza and Palestine.
  • He emphasizes the importance of understanding the root causes of the violence and the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories.

Oct 7 (00:01:36)

  • Suleiman describes the predictable cycle of violence in Gaza, with Israeli casualties leading to disproportionate Palestinian casualties.
  • He criticizes the Western media's coverage of the conflict, which often focuses on Israeli casualties and ignores the plight of Palestinians.
  • Suleiman highlights several incidents and reports that demonstrate Israel's aggressive actions and violations of international law, including the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the ongoing construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
  • He emphasizes the importance of interrogating the ignorance and apathy surrounding the Palestinian plight and calls for accountability for Israel's actions.
  • Suleiman criticizes the United States' unwavering support for Israel, despite its violations of international law, and its role in blocking international efforts to hold Israel accountable.
  • He stresses the need to look beyond headlines and challenge the skewed narrative presented by the mainstream media, which is influenced by Israeli propaganda.

Palestinian diaspora (00:10:32)

  • Suleiman discusses the feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness experienced by Palestinians in the diaspora.
  • He highlights the trauma and sense of helplessness felt by Palestinians who witness the suffering of their people from afar and are unable to provide direct assistance.
  • Suleiman emphasizes the importance of giving a voice to the voiceless and reminding the world of the human stories behind the statistics of Palestinian casualties.
  • He criticizes the lack of international action and calls for a ceasefire to stop the ongoing violence and destruction in Gaza.
  • Suleiman draws a parallel between the current situation in Gaza and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s observation that America's spiritual death would be evident in its actions in Vietnam, suggesting that Gaza represents a similar moment of moral reckoning.

Wael Al-Dahdouh (00:14:47)

  • Wael Al-Dahdouh praises the courage and resilience of Palestinian journalist W, who continued to report on the suffering of Gazans despite losing his family and friends in Israeli airstrikes.
  • W's story highlights the disproportionate targeting of journalists in Gaza and the intentional killing of civilians by Israeli forces.
  • Dahdouh criticizes the international community for its apathy towards the plight of Gazans and the lack of accountability for Israeli actions.

Gaza: The World's Largest Open-Air Prison (00:17:05)

  • Gaza has been described as the world's largest open-air prison, with severe restrictions on movement, fishing, and other aspects of daily life.
  • The ongoing Israeli occupation and bombardment of Gaza have resulted in widespread trauma and psychological distress among the population.
  • Dahdouh emphasizes the devastating impact of the Israeli policy of "mowing the lawn," which involves routine bombardment of Gaza, leading to high casualty counts and increasing desperation among Gazans.

Anti-Palestinian Bigotry and Cultural Genocide (00:18:20)

  • Dahdouh highlights the anti-Palestinian bigotry that fuels the ongoing oppression and violence against Gazans.
  • He criticizes the portrayal of Palestinians as savages and animals, which dehumanizes them and justifies their mistreatment.
  • The destruction of schools, universities, and cultural sites in Gaza amounts to cultural genocide, depriving Palestinians of their history and identity.

The Future of Israeli Security and Palestinian Lives (00:20:20)

  • Dahdouh challenges the notion that Israel's security depends on Palestinians not hating Israel.
  • He argues that the focus should be on addressing the present suffering and killing of Palestinian children, rather than speculating about future security concerns.
  • Dahdouh emphasizes the need for accountability and an end to the occupation, rather than relying on acts of kindness or superficial gestures.

Palestinian Self-Determination and Ending Apartheid (00:21:40)

  • Dahdouh stresses the importance of Palestinian self-determination, allowing Palestinians to pursue their own dignity and happiness without depending on the benevolence of their occupiers.
  • He criticizes the United States for its obstruction of Palestinian self-determination and its support for Israeli apartheid.
  • Dahdouh calls for an end to the occupation and apartheid, as the only sustainable solution to the ongoing conflict.

Violence (00:29:39)

  • Occupation and apartheid are violence even in their most benevolent manifestations.
  • Resistance to occupation and apartheid is morally justified and justified by international law.
  • Palestinians have the right to defend themselves against occupation.
  • Nonviolent resistance is met with repression and violence from Israel.
  • Israel has violated over 63 United Nations resolutions and expanded its occupation.
  • Israel cannot be held accountable because of the United States' support.
  • Terrorism should not only be assigned to non-state actors.
  • Children and non-combatants should not be targeted.
  • There should be proper investigative bodies and international bodies of accountability.

Dehumanization and Bigotry (00:37:46)

  • There has been an increase in dehumanization and bigotry against Muslims and Palestinians in the US.
  • Muslims and Palestinians are being blamed for violence committed by others.
  • There is a double standard in the way that violence against Muslims and Palestinians is reported and condemned.
  • The media often suppresses Palestinian voices and downplays the violence committed against them.
  • People have lost their humanity and moral boundaries in their support for Israel.

Historical Context (00:43:52)

  • The dehumanization and bigotry against Palestinians is an extension of Islamophobia.
  • The expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 was not justified and was based on the same logic that is used to justify the current violence against Palestinians.
  • The story of the Palestinian people is one of ongoing oppression and injustice.

Biden and Trump (00:53:17)

  • US politicians' role in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
  • James Baldwin's view of Israel as a colonial entity.
  • The US has never been an honest peace broker and has protected Israel from accountability.
  • The US is responsible for the genocide in Gaza by funding Israel's arsenal and preventing international accountability.
  • Americans are tired of funding wars and the rise of homelessness while Israel commits war crimes.
  • The US could have ended the genocide in Gaza but continues to support Israel.
  • Biden has failed to show empathy for Palestinians and has made false accusations about Palestinian casualties.
  • Biden has not spoken out against Israeli human rights abuses and has shown no real understanding of the Palestinian plight.
  • Biden has lost the support of the Muslim community and many Americans due to his handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
  • The US political system is a failed democracy that offers only a choice between lesser evils.
  • Both Democrats and Republicans have failed to address the issue of Israel's human rights abuses.
  • More Americans are getting their news outside of legacy media outlets and are becoming aware of the Palestinian plight.
  • Israeli leaders openly discuss ethnic cleansing and the American administration does little to stop it.
  • The American public is likely to get tired of the US's support for Israel's actions.

Donald Trump (01:28:20)

  • Trump's first words on the conflict were about deporting people and revoking visas of pro-Palestinian students.
  • Trump's presidency was not better for the Israel-Palestine conflict, as he moved the US embassy to Jerusalem.
  • The issue is bipartisan, and there is no illusion that Trump would be a savior.
  • Many people are willing to penalize Biden for his handling of the conflict.

Ceasefire march (01:06:28)

  • Lack of mainstream media coverage of the 400,000 people "Free Palestine March" in Washington, DC, in contrast to the coverage of the "Stand with Israel" rally.
  • Increased diversity and multifaith support for Palestine, including Jewish, Native American, and Christian groups.
  • Criticism of the open bigotry and stigmatization faced by pro-Palestine activists, including former IDF soldiers who participated in apartheid policies.
  • Emphasis on the overwhelming majority of voices calling for justice and liberation, rather than anti-Semitism.
  • Acknowledgment that protests can sometimes have problematic incidents, but these should not overshadow the main message of ending the ongoing genocide.

Benjamin Netanyahu (01:16:42)

  • Netanyahu's long-standing commitment to erasing Palestinian people, symbols, and land.
  • His history of campaigning on bigotry, racism, and the promise of eliminating the Palestinian state.
  • Netanyahu's actions seen as a manifestation of his consistent message, rather than a recent shift.
  • Questioning why Netanyahu was able to rise to power with such hateful messaging.
  • Dismissal of the claim that Israel's security is the primary concern, suggesting it is about Netanyahu's political survival.
  • Criticism of Netanyahu's character, including narcissism and tyranny.
  • Acknowledgment that the problem of the occupation goes beyond Netanyahu, but he is seen as the loudest bigot in that position.
  • Israel's responsibility to protect those it occupies, rather than just defending itself.
  • Criticism of Israel's desire to occupy and deny while avoiding the responsibilities of an occupier.
  • Emphasis on the systematic expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and the expansion of Israeli borders into Palestinian territory.
  • Comparison of Israeli policies towards Palestinians to treating them as animals.
  • Rejection of the "pious silence" surrounding Israel and the need to recognize its history and function.
  • Clarification that Gaza remains under de facto occupation despite the withdrawal of Israeli troops before October 7th.
  • Explanation of how Israel controls movement, air, sea, imports, exports, and identity in Gaza, depriving Palestinians of fundamental freedoms and self-determination.

Houthi rebel attacks (01:23:44)

  • Yemen's Houthi rebels attacked Israel in response to the events of October 7th.
  • The United States and the United Kingdom initiated bombings of multiple targets in Yemen in response to the Houthi attacks.
  • The United States' actions suggest that it prioritizes its shipping lanes over Palestinian lives.
  • The Houthi rebels have seized ships and blocked shipping lanes but have not killed anyone.
  • They have stated that they will cease their activities if a ceasefire is reached.
  • The United States' decision to bomb Yemen instead of working towards a ceasefire is criticized.
  • The root problem is Israel's attacks on innocent Palestinian lives, not the Houthi rebels' actions.

Hostages (01:25:21)

  • Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson was a co-sponsor of a bill to penalize Israel for its detention of child prisoners.
  • Thousands of Palestinian children have been arbitrarily detained, put in military courts, subjected to solitary confinement, and experienced sexual violence.
  • There have been no repercussions for these actions by Israel.
  • Conditioning aid to Israel to prevent indiscriminate bombings has not gained support in mainstream American politics.
  • Efforts to stop Israel from detaining children and throwing them into military prisons have also failed to gain traction.
  • Pro-Israel resolutions, on the other hand, are quickly passed by both chambers of Congress.
  • The framing of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners is problematic.
  • All 2.2 million people in Gaza and all Palestinians living under occupation are hostages.
  • Palestinian prisoners are also hostages, subjected to unfair treatment and denied basic rights.
  • Israel released 150 Palestinian prisoners during a 4-day truce but then arrested 135 more in the West Bank.
  • The root of the problem is the occupation, apartheid, and dehumanization of Palestinians.
  • The dehumanization of Palestinians prevents the world from fully understanding their plight.
  • Peace agreements like the Abraham Accords are criticized for ignoring the plight of Palestinians and focusing on arms deals.
  • Peace cannot be used to silence the Palestinian cause while settlements continue to expand and their situation worsens.
  • Israel's unwillingness to remove settlers and its rejection of a two-state solution hinder progress.
  • The world must act against apartheid and occupation, and hold Israel accountable for its actions.

MLK Jr and Malcolm X (01:31:41)

  • Malcolm X never advocated for violence himself.
  • Malcolm X found it hypocritical to commit the oppressed to nonviolence while not restraining the oppressor from its violence.
  • Malcolm X had a deep understanding of the connection between State violence in the US and American imperialism abroad.
  • Malcolm X was the first major African-American leader to speak on Vietnam.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. went to Gaza in 1964 and wrote an essay connecting Zionism to American imperialism.
  • Malcolm and Martin played different but important roles in the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Self-determination is crucial for maintaining the fuel of a movement.
  • Palestinian consciousness has only continued to grow after 75 years.
  • The majority of Palestinians support the October 7th attacks because they see it as a way to end their misery.
  • Palestinians live under occupation, with routine harassment, expanding settlements, air strikes, and a lack of basic rights.
  • The Israeli public largely favors a non-democratic regime, does not care about the plight of Palestinians, and does not support a ceasefire.
  • Mainstream media and pop culture in Israel often express a desire to eliminate the Palestinian people.
  • Bassem Youssef's interview with Piers Morgan highlighted the human stories of Palestinians who have suffered greatly.
  • It is important to highlight the asymmetry in violence and moral reasoning to solve the problem.
  • Malcolm X's analogy of a knife being pulled out of a wound illustrates the need to acknowledge and address the ongoing violence.
  • Human rights organizations, including Israeli ones, have determined that Israel is an apartheid state, an occupying state, and now an unfolding genocide.
  • The trauma of the past and fear of the future do not justify the murder of the present.
  • The world should focus on ending the ongoing atrocity and holding Israel accountable.
  • The Palestinian people are resilient, courageous, and benevolent.
  • Despite the hardships they have faced, young Palestinians still find joy and laughter.
  • The urgency right now is to ensure that Palestinians can live their lives without fear and oppression.

Palestinian refugees (01:44:22)

  • The notion of why other nations in the region can't take in Palestinian refugees is based on bigotry and racism.
  • Palestinians have faced discrimination and rejection similar to Jews during the Holocaust.
  • Palestinians have proven their ability to overcome significant hurdles and contribute positively to society wherever they go.
  • The question should be why Palestinians are driven from their homes, not why others won't open their homes to them.
  • Palestinians in diaspora should not be used as an excuse to eliminate those remaining in their homes under torment.
  • The blockade on Gaza prevents people from fleeing and they don't want to leave their land and homes.
  • Israel's strategy of destroying Gaza won't make Palestinians give up their homeland.
  • Palestinians are proud and resilient, as seen in their resistance in East Jerusalem.
  • The world should hold the occupier accountable rather than telling the occupied how to cope.

Indigenous people analogy (02:53:04)

  • Palestinians draw a connection between their struggle and that of indigenous peoples who have been wronged.
  • Solidarity with indigenous people can help raise awareness and refocus attention on the crimes committed against them.
  • The Palestinian plight is unique due to the small size of their land and the forced removal of its original inhabitants.
  • The original lie of "a land without a people for a people without a land" ignores the presence of Palestinians on their ancestral land.

Muhammad and Jesus (01:53:32)

  • Islam refers to the idea of submission to one God and attaining peace.
  • All prophets came with one message and mission of monotheism.
  • Prophets are seen as siblings in prophethood and are venerated equally.
  • The messages of all prophets are fundamentally the same, emphasizing love, God's attributes, and ways of knowing God.
  • There were changes in legislation and Divine Law but the Divine Spirit remains the same.
  • Prophets did not betray the messages of their predecessors but upheld the same message.
  • Interfaith conversations have become complicated due to events like October 7th.
  • Christian Zionism is seen as the root of the problem, driving America's unwavering support for Israel.
  • Palestinian Christians face difficulties and discrimination, including being barred from holy sites.
  • There is a need for more morally consistent voices across faiths to address the situation.
  • Rabbis and pastors should be able to have conversations without being seen as turning their backs on their religion.
  • Palestinian Christians have been devastated by the recent events, as highlighted by Justin Amash's personal experience.

Criticism of Islam (02:52:30)

  • Objectively, the Quran has fewer verses about war compared to the Old and New Testaments.
  • Verses about violence in the Quran were revealed in response to persecution of the Prophet Muhammad.
  • If Muslims believed in killing non-believers, there wouldn't be two billion Muslims today.
  • The history of Islam is one of contribution, building, medicine, science, and math.
  • Muslims do not account for a greater proportion of violence than other faith communities.
  • The term "terrorist" is meaningless as violence is equally violent regardless of who commands it.
  • Islamophobia allows for greater violence against Muslims domestically and abroad.
  • The US has launched wars against primarily Muslim countries and has a violent foreign policy towards the Muslim world.
  • Muslim communities in the US have faced aggressive programs of suppression and surveillance.

Al-Aqsa Mosque (02:04:24)

  • Al-Aqsa Mosque is sacred to Muslims because it honors all prophets and is associated with significant events in Islamic history, including the Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) Night Journey and Ascension.
  • It was the first direction of prayer for Muslims before Mecca and remains a fundamental holy sanctuary.
  • The sanctity of a human being is considered greater than the sanctity of any place of worship in Islam.
  • The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) emphasized the value of a believer's dignity and honor over the value of the Kaaba itself.
  • Recent events in Gaza have sparked an interest in Islam among young people, particularly through social media trends like Quran Tik Tok.
  • Many people have been inspired by the resilience and faith of the people of Gaza, leading to an increase in individuals converting to Islam.

Ramadan (02:13:22)

  • Ramadan this year is anticipated to be particularly difficult due to the ongoing aggression against Palestinians and the destruction in Gaza.
  • The focus during Ramadan will likely be on Gaza, either calling for an end to the aggression or beginning the process of rebuilding.
  • The mood in the community is somber and different from previous years, with a personal impact on many individuals who have lost loved ones or are affected by the crisis.
  • Sermons and community discussions during Ramadan are expected to address the pain and suffering, while also offering prayers for hope and healing.
  • A verse from the Quran that resonates with Omar Suleiman during challenging times is from the chapter of Mary, reminding that God does not forget and that hope lies in the afterlife.
  • The people of Gaza, despite their material hardships, find strength in their belief in something greater than this world, which contributes to their resilience.

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