Rezwan Ovo Haq, a student at the University of Central Florida, advocates strongly for that in which he believes.
As a Muslim, Rezwan is devoted to helping fellow Muslims and Palestinians. He “used to believe Israel was an ‘Apartheid’ state, a terrorist state, a regime that routinely oppresses the Palestinians” and was very involved with SJP. However after a few critical discussions, including with Ben Suster, President of CAMERA-supported group Knights for Israel at UCF, Rezwan altered his opinions.
Speaking with a former IDF soldier, Rezwan explains, was a pivotal moment for him. The IDF soldier visiting Rezwan’s campus explained to him that during Operation Protective Edge, he went into Gaza along with many other IDF soldiers in order to stop the onslaught of rockets launched at Israeli communities and terror tunnels infiltrating the country. During the war in Gaza, one of the soldier’s brother in arms, and best friend, was killed.
Before this encounter, Rezwan had never seen the humane side of the IDF. Rezwan discovered that the IDF is comprised of soldiers who, similar to him, are also just young people trying to counter terrorism and protect their nation.
Rezwan was also astounded to learn about Israel’s acceptance of the LGBTQ community. While someone from the LGBTQ community can live freely in Israel and serve in the IDF as openly gay, someone labeled as gay could be killed in any other Middle Eastern country. Rezwan now understands the unfortunate irony that Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT), an LGBTQ pro-Palestinian group, does not understand. Within the Middle East, a member of QUIT could only live freely and safely in Israel, the country slandered by the organization.
In addition, Rezwan came across an article that illuminated an unfortunate aspect of the anti-Israel groups he had supported. Rezwan read an article about Hamas detaining and beating a Palestinian. Palestinian leaders were sadly not held accountable for these unjust actions. What bothered Rezwan most about this whole story was SJP’s response: silence.
SJP and pro-Palestinian organizations make little to no effort to defend Palestinians unless it serves to hurt Israel’s image. As Rezwan explains, these organizations “solely exist to slander and dehumanize Israel and I could no longer stand with that.” For these so-called pro-Palestinian organizations, helping Palestinians is a secondary goal, sometimes not acknowledged at all.
Disillusioned by pro-Palestinian organizations, Rezwan decided to join pro-Israel groups because Israel is a force of good for Palestinians in the Middle East. In Israel, Palestinians are free citizens, who can vote and work in any field. The Israeli government just passed a law to further financially support education for Palestinians. Many Muslims choose to serve in the IDF, female as well as male.
Pro-Palestinian students have not accepted Rezwan’s change of heart. They have no interest in listening to his views and have called him a “double agent,” a “traitor,” and have questioned whether in fact he is a “real” Muslim. Deeply devoted to the truth and justice that is ingrained in Islamic values, Rezwan is hurt and disgusted by the reactions from Israel-haters but that does not stop him. As Rezwan has explained, “Islam taught me to stand with the facts even when its unpopular and that’s what I’m doing…and yes it may be unpopular, but that’s not going to silence me.”
Some of these advocates even made up outrageous lies that Rezwan’s parents were kidnapped by Israel and were forcing him to speak on behalf of Jews. Unfortunately, harassing a friend of Israel is not a new trend among Palestinians either; a Palestinian who recently gave emergency aid to Israelis following a terror attack was fired from his job simply because he helped to save Israeli lives.
Rezwan has been attacked with very offensive comments but this does not stop him from defending Israel and speaking up for the truth. He has become a staunch advocate for Israel and is a member of the Knights for Israel at his university. During CAMERA’s Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference, students were able to hear directly from Rezwan about these experiences, which only strengthened their resolves to stand up for Israel in the face of hatred on campus.
Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.