Dear Yossi,

Thank you for inviting me to read your beautiful book, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, which I have had the pleasure to read thoroughly. I appreciate the effort to which you have gone in order to explain a great number of controversial issues in substantial detail, not to mention your courage and honesty in addressing such topics by approaching them from all angles.

I would also like to thank you for creating this platform of dialogue so that we can hear and read from each other. Indeed, it was this platform that initially encouraged me to write to you; I felt that there was a listening ear on the other side.

I believe that putting all the controversial and problematic topics on the table, listening to everyone’s perspectives, hearing what they went through, and understanding their pain and suffering during the long decades of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is very important and must be a matter of joint discussion. Therefore, I would love to share my perspectives and present my views as a human being who thinks about this conflict on a larger scale; the Middle East, the Arab and the Muslim worlds, and how they have both shaped and been affected by the conflict.

To begin with, I maintain that a proper diagnosis of the causes of the conflict – and one which recognizes our current reality – is required in order to find the appropriate cure, a solution that can end it all.

A proper diagnosis should start with religion. I think that Arabs and Muslims view this conflict through a religious lens because Arab and Islamic intellectual thought portrays it as such. The media and education system have proven to be invaluable tools in strengthening this perspective. The resulting incitement has left no room for people to think about or question what they have been taught. Diversity, in all areas of discussion from personal opinion to religion, has been absent from the Arab education system, fostering hostility towards those who are “different”: Jews have been at the top of this list, continuously portrayed as the plotters against Islam.

I believe that Jews are generally well educated and know about Islam much more than Muslims know about Judaism. Having said that, I think that religious Jews have strayed away from the way Jews were originally guided to perceive others.

The problem with religion is that whilst it can serve as a strengthening force in society, it also has the potential to weaken societies if spirituality is exploited to incite against others.

If we look back on history, we find it riddled with misinformation that contradicts the very fundamentals of mercy in the three monotheistic religions. This results in religious interpretations that promote incitement against Jews and focus solely on the negative features of Judaism – if such features ever existed – whilst completely ignoring the positive ones.

Such inciters forget – or pretend to forget – that the first peace treaty Muhammad conducted once he’d migrated to Yathrib was agreed upon with the Jews. Furthermore, on the matter of Yathrib, it is known that the Jews were present there for a great period of time before Muslims ever arrived, and yet they never demanded that the Muslims leave Yathrib; much unlike today’s Muslims, who demand that the Jews leave Jerusalem.

I liked Yossi’s approach of bringing in and focusing on positive areas for discussion, and I believe that history does indeed present us with positive examples of Jewish-Muslim relations. For example, Yossi cites the good treatment of the Jews after the Caliph Omar ibn Alkhatab had taken over Jerusalem, allowing them to enter the city and granting them freedom to practice Judaism and worship God at their holy sites.

Jews were among the non-Muslim groups classified as Dhimmi, meriting protection. Such groups were also referred to as Al-Mo’alaftu Qulubuhum, meaning “those whose hearts are to be reconciled/those who are hesitant in their faith” and Muslims were expected to give part of their Zakat to such people*. If we, Muslims, were commanded to give our Zakat to the Jews, tell me, how could we possibly be expected to hate them?

I believe that portraying Jews and Muslims as mortal enemies is a big obstacle to reconciliation. Muslims should not perceive Jews as the enemies of Islam and Jews should not call all acts of terror Islamic. I believe that such negative rhetoric causes us to bleed moderates on both sides; moderates who accept one other and believe that both religions can coexist.

On the matter of politics, we have reached an era now, in the 21st century, in which diplomacy has been proven to be a highly effective means of problem-solving. Violence has never brought about any positive change, rather only more destruction. Nonetheless, diplomacy in itself is not enough. Dialogue between people on both sides is imperative in understanding the other’s narrative. I believe that social interaction between those who are at conflict with one another is an important element in problem-solving. This is precisely the reason many Arab regimes prohibit such interactions between their people and the Israelis, even going so far as to label it a crime. Any Arab would be considered as a traitor or an Israeli spy if he spoke about making peace, and not war, with Israel. This is why so many people are afraid to speak out and read your book. This is, unfortunately, the consequence of living under autocratic political regimes.

The issue of borders is another obstacle in this conflict but I consider it to be the least of our concerns; fighting over borders is a common state of affairs between neighboring countries. The character of the state/solution is the most complicated problem; one state or two, secular or religious, one nationality or bi-national? And what about Jerusalem? Should it unify or divide us? And how could Jerusalem be a place that respects everybody and treats us all as equals? All of these are extremely challenging obstacles that must be addressed.

I believe that the rhetoric of portraying Israel as the enemy has to change. The phrase “the Israeli enemy” is ingrained into Arabic media discourse. On some passports, one inscription even reads: “Allowed to visit all countries except Israel”. How would the average Arab feel if he were to be surrounded by such deep rooted hostility? He would, of course, allow himself to continue to be dragged along the current of animosity, viewing the Israeli as the enemy.

If we were to take even a brief glance at our own internal Arab conflicts, we would surely reconsider our own understanding and perception of the phrase “Israeli enemy”. Sudan, my country, is one of the Arab countries that has paid a heavy price for internal violence driven by Arab nationalism. We have witnessed so much bloodshed and destruction to which Israel has no connection. Yet, Israel is still portrayed as the enemy.

Regarding the social aspect and interpersonal relations, I believe that Arabs and Muslims who are more distant from the cycle of incitement of Arab nationalism are less hostile towards Jews. Many of them can serve to be good models of positive relations with Jews. When I read their upbeat stories and get to know such people, I am filled with hope that peace and coexistence are possible.

Finally, I believe that peace without love can be compared to fake flowers made out of plastic. They lack authentic beauty and fragrance. I would therefore like to thank you again for endeavoring to create genuine peace based on love between both sides. I also appreciate your attempt to focus on positive discourse that brings optimism to people. I truly hope that this dialogue continues, especially at a time when it is widely considered impossible.

I am trying to encourage more Sudanese friends to read your book and I hope that they accept my invitation, read and send you their responses. In so doing, I hope that they too will engage in this beautiful circle of dialogue between our people.



Nasir Altayib from Sudan


* Yossi’s team’s Disclaimer:

All interpretations on this matter are in clear agreement and any reasonable understanding of the phraseology of religious scriptures informs us that the writer’s interpretation is inaccurate in this instance.

“Al-Mo’alaftu Qulubuhum” – those whose hearts are to be reconciled/those who are hesitant in their faith.

The term refers to:

  • those who recently converted to Islam and are new Muslims who may have lost their families’ support so are in need of zakat.


  • those whom the prophet Muhammad hoped to persuade to convert because they were hesitant in their own faith.

The second Caliph Omar discontinued this type of zakat by explaining that Islam had, at this historical juncture, achieved enough strength that there was no longer need for those “Al-Mo’alaftu Qulubuhum”. 


To read Yossi’s response check this link