A Statement by the Inclusion Allies Coalition (IAC)
It is now just over a month since the attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians that killed more than 1400 people, including children, the elderly and other defenseless citizens, resulted in 200 Israelis taken hostage, and precipitated the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza, resulting in thousands of additional deaths of innocents.
We at the Inclusion Allies Coalition have, like everybody in the civilized world, been watching these unfolding tragedies in horror. While we were initially inclined to send out a simple statement decrying the violence on both sides of this conflict, we have been looking for the appropriate response in keeping with our commitment to forward the work of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.
We are not sure that there is any single statement that can match the gravity of the situation. But we will try.
As is true with most people, it is easy for us to get pulled into “choosing sides” in this conflict; to justify the actions of “our side,” and decry the actions of “the other.” We will leave it to others to make the assessment of the various interpretations of history and justifications for the actions that each side has taken. However, we feel that there is a deeper awareness to turn to as we ask ourselves the question: “How does it come to this?”
Why has it been so hard for people to uniformly condemn a fanatic attack that was so viciously intended to not only kill, but also terrorize a civilian community in a particularly vile way, and the response to that attack which has included actions that are universally condemned by the civilized world? Why is it so easy to justify the actions of “our side,” even as we know they are wrong?
We want to be clear. As an organization we stand for fair and equitable justice and international law: that the targeting of innocent people, especially children and seniors, and the notion of visiting collective punishment on a civilian population anywhere is unacceptable, and support a process that leads to the cessation of hostilities and can allow Israelis and Palestinians of all faiths to live without fear and deprivation. We believe this to be true as we have seen the fall of the Berlin Wall and South African apartheid, and peace processes in places like Rwanda, Northern Ireland, and others do exactly that.
However, as an organization that represents DEI practitioners around the world, we feel like we have a responsibility to speak out against the subsequent backlash to these actions that we see exploding globally in the form of rampant bigotry, targeted violence, and recrimination, especially on college campuses. We are also deeply concerned about the mental health and wellness among employees who are affected by the escalated Israeli-Hamas war and rise in antisemitism and islamophobia worldwide.
Hamas is a terrorist organization that does not represent all Palestinians, and certainly not all Arabs or Muslims. The Israeli government, particularly under Netanyahu, does not represent all Jews or even all Israelis. Yet we have seen a despicable explosion in both antisemitism and in anti-Arab or anti-Muslim attitudes and behaviors over the past several weeks: A fatal stabbing in Illinois of a six-year old Muslim boy in Chicago; harassment of staff at a Palestinian restaurant; a Stanford professor forcing Jewish students to stand in the corner of his classroom so that they could “understand what it felt like to be Palestinians”; Jewish students cornered by protestors in a campus library, and, sadly, an explosion of antisemitic hate crimes which have quadrupled in the past month. And, at the same time, pro-Palestinian protestors being censored and punished for speaking out against the Israeli attack on Gaza, or facing retribution in professional situations, as well as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate crimes, all of which are being fed by a barrage of propagandizing information that fill our news feeds, social media and inboxes with false, exaggerated information designed to inflame reactions and force people to choose sides.
As the IAC, what do we propose to DEI practitioners committed to creating an inclusive world? We have a few suggestions:
1. Learn the history of the region. Don’t allow yourself to be dominated by the propaganda that is being put out by individuals and groups with a wide array of motivations and willingness to adhere to facts. It is astonishing how few people have even a rudimentary understanding of the conflict that is not rooted in one point of view or the other. Read interpretative pieces that represent multiple perspectives on the history and the war. Notice how historical “starting points” are different from various sources. Attempt to put yourself in the mindset of “the other side.” In other words, do what we ask the people who sit in our training to do.
2. Take a stand against hate in all its forms by vigorously opposing antisemitism and Islamophobia, wherever it shows up.
Reject anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Arab bigotry. Know the difference between Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians, and Hamas, or other terrorist organizations. Guard against dehumanizing language or delegitimizing people’s suffering. The horror of October 7th cannot give carte blanche to other horrors. One can abhor terrorism and still support the rights of Palestinians to have a safe homeland.
Recognize that Jews of all skin colors are still a marginalized group in our society, as we are plainly seeing. Be sure to know how to distinguish between Zionism, the Israeli government, Israelis, and Jews. They are not all the same and collapsing them all into one group is dangerous and ignorant. And watch out for the way people justify their suffering through “whataboutism.” It is possible for people of good will to oppose policies of the Israeli government without being antisemitic.
3. Understand that Israeli and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims have a right to exist, even as these territories have been in dispute for years, and that both sides have historical and religious claims on being on the land.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be the cooler head in the room. Try to shed light rather than heat on the situation. Actively attempt to put yourself in the shoes of people on both sides. Try not to assume the worst about people we disagree with. Don’t spread false or exaggerated information. Be the person who refuses to use inflammatory language. Work to build dialogue and understanding across these differences. Listen to people who are suffering from all perspectives. Create space for people to share their pain and anguish with each other and to find compassion for all the suffering.
If we are committed to creating a world of inclusion for all people, our work starts here. Back in the 1950’s when the “Ban the Bomb” movement was active, there was a popular quote from A.J Muste, a pacifist leader, who said “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.”
Our challenge is similar. We are faced with a choice. Who we are being as DEI practitioners matters. We can be part of the problem or part of the solution. And it starts when we realize that there is no way to inclusion, inclusion is the way.