Kasim Hafeez, a member of the the advisory board for StandWithUs in the UK, spoke on how he went from a “Jew hating, Muslim-extremist” to “Muslim Zionist” at a lecture in which Palestinian students spoke out about his views, ending with debate and the students walking out Tuesday night.
After Hafeez’s lecture on why became a Zionist, sponsored by Christians United for Israel on Campus, the room was opened up for a question and answer session which quickly became dominated by a discussion between Hafeez and seven Palestinian students in the audience.
The main concern for the students lay in comments Hafeez made about Palestine never being a state and that he didn’t believe any groups were “Pro Palestine” but were all “Anti-Israel.” They proceeded to argue over whether Hamas or Israel were launching weapons first, and who were killing children on the Gaza Strip. Both sides were shouting at each other, and Hafeez stepped out from the podium and walked toward the audience with his voice raised.
The discussion relented only after Jessica Marzucco, regional coordinator for CUFI, took over the podium and addressed where the name Palestine came from historically. After this, all seven students walked out of the room.
Although his family is from Pakistan, Hafeez’s grandparents moved to Great Britain in 1964, where he grew up. During the lecture Hafeez spoke on how he was influenced at an early age by antisemitic and radical views, which were enforced on a trip to Pakistan in 2000. After 9/11, Hafeez truly became radicalized and began protesting at his school, burning Israeli flags and spreading terrorist propaganda.
Hafeez remembers the radical groups that came around his neighborhood when he was young, making the Muslims feel like victims. They showed pictures of children being killed in Palestine and told them Israel was killing everyone. He said these messages were what set him on the path to radicalism.
Then Hafeez read a book called The Case for Israel that took him down a path to find the truth. The book disclaimed everything Hafeez had ever believed in, from how the Jews settled in Israel and the war that followed to the fighting going on in Israel today. But he believed he could make everything in the book into lies in just two weeks, but two years later he still could not prove it.
At this point, he decided to go to Israel and see for himself if it was true. He looked for segregation, but found Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Druids in the same places. He found that everyone he talked to were just normal people living in a normal country, not how he had envisioned it at all.
After talking to people, he went to Western Wall and found himself with his head against the wall praying. He began to think about the message the world’s nations sent out after the Holocaust, “Never Again,” and he realized that Israel was the only guarantee to “Never Again.” During his lecture he said Israel was not the result of the Holocaust, but it could have prevented the Holocaust.
“We are seeing that now, with thousands of Jews fleeing France — the highest concentration of Jews in Europe,” Hafeez said.
After Hafeez returned from Israel, he realized he couldn’t keep silent about his new revelation, he needed to tell everyone that Israel needs peace. He realized that the only answer to peace was to go out and change the world.
He said just as Pakistan, Bangladesh and India realized that forming three separate states because of religion was the answer for their country, that the only answer was for Israel and Palestine to form two separate states.
“Until the Middle East realizes they must come to a peace agreement to establish two states in the region, more innocent people will die,” Hafeez said.
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