What is Faithwashing?
Faithwashing is one example of normalization, which are efforts by Israel and its supporters to make occupation, apartheid, and the continued colonization of Palestine seem normal in order to shut down any resistance to its oppression and/or equate the oppressor (the state of Israel) with the oppressed (Palestinians).
Journalist Sana Saeed has defined faithwashing as “changing the cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (or, rather, Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine) from a mid-20th century Euro-American settler-colonialist project (that brought anti-semitism to the Muslim world) to a non-existent centuries long enmity between Jews and Muslims.”
“By rejecting faithwashing attempts that seek to normalize Israel’s war crimes and do not address the root causes of the injustice, communities can ensure they are in solidarity with Palestinians and working towards real peace.”
Using religious differences to explain the situation is a deliberate attempt to whitewash the reality of Israel’s purposeful denial of Palestinian rights and the complicity of other governments, corporations, and other institutions. Faithwashing helps promote the idea that Palestinians (ie Muslims) and Israelis (ie Jews) need to just get together and talk about their differences in order to bring about peace. This is problematic for several reasons including denying Israel’s role as a state that is committing war crimes; conflating Zionism with Judaism; erasing the existence of Palestinian Christians who are also victims of Israel’s policies; and absolving those who are supporting Israel through military aid and other means.
Palestinians have called people conscience worldwide, including faith communities, to use time-honored and respected tactics like boycotts, divestment, and sanctions targeting Israel and institutions complicit in its oppression until it ensures freedom, justice, and equality. By rejecting faithwashing attempts that seek to normalize Israel’s war crimes and do not address the root causes of the injustice, communities can ensure they are in solidarity with Palestinians and working towards real peace.
Examples of faithwashing include Muslim-Jewish dialogues that explicitly or implicitly ban the discussion of politics; partnerships with faith organizations that are involved in anti-BDS efforts; and delegations to the Holy Land that don’t engage with the realities of occupation and apartheid.