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Praying for a World Where Coexistence & Peace are Attainable

I am not a member of the Jewish community, but I felt their pain last weekend watching the incomprehensible atrocities committed by the terrorist group Hamas against Israeli civilians -- atrocities that reflected the very worst of humanity.

As a Black man and the President of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, I know how critical it is to speak out clearly and unequivocally in the face of hate. There should be no hesitation in condemning terrorist attacks against civilians that included kidnappings, murders, and reported threats to execute civilian hostages. And there should be no hesitation in speaking out against the deeply anti-semitic ideology of a group whose stated purpose is to wipe a sovereign nation off the map.

I say this knowing that my own history has been marked by a profound struggle for civil rights, self-determination, and the right to exist free from discrimination and persecution. I, therefore, understand the Palestinian aspiration for a state of their own, where they can exercise their right to self-determination, live in peace, and build prosperous lives for themselves and future generations. It is important to remember that our fight for civil rights was a moral and just one, and so too is the Palestinian cause.

However, in work towards justice and liberation, there is no justification for terrorism, and no excuse for antisemitism or anti-Muslim hate. 

Here in the U.S., where anti-semitic incidents were already at record levels, I fear what is to come in the days, weeks and months ahead. Jews, like any other religious or ethnic group, are diverse in their beliefs, backgrounds, and political stances. Blaming all Jews for the actions of a government in a foreign country is an oversimplification and a form of prejudice. While criticism of specific policies of the Israeli government may be valid and legitimate, it should never be a pretext for antisemitism and hatred against Jews around the world or here in New Jersey. And, in the wake of a horrifying reported hate crime murder of a 6-year-old Palestinian child in Chicago over the weekend, there can be absolutely no room in this moment for rhetoric that risks fueling anti-Muslim or anti-Arab hate – or that could lead to the dehumanization of Palestinians or the erasure of their pain and struggle for justice.

In this moment of pain, I pray for a world where coexistence and peace are attainable. Richard T. Smith President, NAACP New Jersey State Conference Member, NAACP National Board of Directors

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