Muslim Jerusalem YMCA chief on 'victimhood' problem

By Jennifer Lipman, July 26, 2012

The first Muslim chief executive of the Jerusalem branch of the YMCA has warned that there will not be peace between Israel and the Palestinians until leaders on both sides can discard "the victimhood mentality chains".

Forsan Hussein, who visited London to meet communal leaders recently through the UK Task Force, said that unless a new generation with an exposure to both narratives is nurtured, nothing will change.

Mr Hussein, whose works with all three Abrahamic faiths in Jerusalem, said that while the past could not be dismissed, it was time to move on. "If you let the history chain you, it will totally blind your vision," said Mr Hussein, adding that while many members of his own family were Palestinian refugees, "without vision you will have no future".

"When all you know is the language of war and stereotypes and violence, how can you even have a vision to see what peace can be and come up with a plan to get it?" he asked. "We need fresh leadership that has gone out of those mentality chains, and we get that, by nurturing a generation that did not grow up on the stereotypes."

He said that the problems in the Middle East were essentially rooted in the fact that people didn't meet each other. "There's no turning back once you realise the other is not a monster and the Jew doesn't have horns," he said.

Mr Hussein, who was once labelled the "Israeli Obama," also expressed concern about the consequences of the decline in Jerusalem's Christian population. "Imagine if only two per cent of Jerusalem's population were Jews, or of Mecca were Muslims. Strength comes from diversity so to diminish one aspect of what makes the city so special is a missed opportunity."

He said Diaspora Jewry needed to help build grassroots coexistence and decided what kind of Israel it wanted to see.

"The type of Israel that is suspicious of its own citizens, that lacks visions, and that has failed leadership, is not going to be sustainable," he said.

Last updated: 11:25am, July 26 2012