TEHRAN- One of the messages of Hajj is to fight racism. Everyone who performs Hajj must perform tawaf and sa’i. During tawaf, a pilgrim must also circle the tomb of Sayidah Hajar, which is attached to one part of the Kaaba. Then, he or she must perform sa’i, to run back and forth, from Safa to Marwah.
Sa’i is a Hajj ritual that imitates what Hajar did. Who is Hajar? She was a black slave who was married to Prophet Ibrahim. In the sight of Allah, even a black slave woman turned out to have a very noble degree. Allah says the noblest among humans is the most pious, not the richest, or a specific gender or race. Therefore, Muslims should fight racism in this world. One nation that is still a victim of racism is the Palestinian nation. Palestine is colonized by the Zionist-Israel group, who claimed to be nobler and had the right to carry out occupation and various crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people.
In April 2021, Human Rights Watch issued a report describing Israel as committing apartheid and persecution towards the Palestinian people. Israel formally implemented an apartheid system of government that separated social, economic, and political life based on race. The Israeli Jews get far more special rights and facilities than Palestinians.
The legal term “apartheid” has long been used by observers, writers, or diplomats who support the Palestinian cause. The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the 1998 Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) define apartheid as a crime against humanity as consisting of three main elements: the intention to maintain the dominance of one racial group over another; systematic oppression by dominant groups over marginalized groups; and inhuman actions (HRW, 2021).
The definition of “inhuman acts” includes, arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment, dividing the population along racial lines by creating separate locations for certain races, forced displacement, land grabbing, denying the right to “leave and return to their country”, and denied citizenship rights over certain races. Israel has been carried out all of these actions since its founding in 1948 (Allen, 2021).
The inhuman acts started in 1947 when the United Nations issued Resolution 181, dividing the Palestinian territories: 45% for establishing an Arab-Palestinian state and 55% for the establishment of “the state of Israel”. Since then, the Palestinians have experienced expulsion, land and house grabs, and even massacres. Most Arab-Palestinian citizens who stay in the 55% area of the future Israel become citizens of Israel. In 2020, there are 1.9 million Arab-Palestinian who are citizens of Israel. They became “second class” citizens and experienced various discriminations.
Among other things, many of them were arbitrarily evicted by the Israeli government. Arab citizens cannot freely choose where to live and are forced to live in special Arab settlements. In hospitals, schools and public facilities, they also experience discrimination. Arabs receive minimal medical services, in contrast to services received by Jews. Job opportunities are also minimal. It is not surprising that the poverty rate among Arab citizens is very high. In fact, even to get married, they do not have freedom. They are prohibited from marrying fellow Palestinians who are citizens of the West Bank or Gaza; also can not marry a citizen of “enemy of Israel” such as Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon (Stead, 2019).
Meanwhile, Arab-Palestinian expelled from the 55% area became refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, or in refugee camps in surrounding countries (Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon). Starting in 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, so that the area was referred to as “occupied Palestine.” The Oslo Negotiations have transferred the control of 18% of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli military is still in power for the rest area. Israel also continues to bring Jews from all over the world to the West Bank and build Jewish settlements there. This act of Israel is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit occupying troops from changing the demographics of the occupied areas.
In this region, Israel also enforces an apartheid system. Israeli-Jewish citizens are allowed (even protected by the army) to confiscate land and houses belonging to Palestinians. Israel built roads, water and electricity system, and various infrastructures for Jews only, which Palestinians cannot use. In the West Bank, Israeli soldiers also make arbitrary arrests, detain without trial, and shoot at Palestinians. Middle East observers, UN commissions, humanitarian activists, and even diplomats already know all this. The UN has released many resolutions against the illegal settlement, but nothing seems to stop Israel’s crimes.
The discrimination and racism felt by the Palestinians have been going on for more than seventy years. Muslims have the responsibility and duty to help the Palestinian people. During the pilgrimage, Muslims from all over the world meet and gather. In this most significant gathering of Muslims, there should be a voice in defense of the Palestinian people because one of the main messages of the Hajj is to fight against racism and apartheid. With the unity of Muslims and all people who loves humanity, Palestine will be free.
Dr. Dina Yulianti is lecturer of International Relations program at Universitas Padjadjaran