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It is possible to support our Jewish friends and speak out against the unspeakable crimes in Gaza

Rite & Reason: How to respond to the current slaughter in Gaza in an interfaith context?

How to respond to the current slaughter in Gaza in an interfaith context? It has always been a challenge, but especially since the most recent phase of the killing began on October 7th last. Sitting at Dublin City Interfaith meetings with both Muslim and Jewish people present, it has most often gone unmentioned. But as people representing various religious traditions, don’t we have a duty to speak out for peace and reconciliation?

When Hamas committed the crime of mass murdering Israeli civilians and taking hostages late last year, I felt it important to write to my Jewish friends and colleagues, offering them support. I said I was against the war, but understood how isolated and vulnerable they must feel in Ireland right now. For me, it was important to offer the hand of friendship, while respecting the complexity of the situation.

Through my approaches to my Jewish friends, I learned how some of them had friends and family in Israel. How they had relatives who knew people murdered on October 7th. How some had elderly relatives here in Ireland, now afraid to go to synagogue in Dublin for fear of being targeted. For them, being Jewish, this killing far away is a personal and real lived experience.

Then as the weeks passed, and the crimes of Hamas were superseded by the genocidal response of the Israel Defence Forces, it became much harder to remain silent at interfaith meetings. The old problem persisted: it is all too easy to equate criticism of Zionism with some kind of anti-Semitism. We could make calls for a general peace, but calling out the genocide would be to break open the unstated complexities of the various positions at the interfaith table, and risk a breakout into disagreement.


At the invitation of the Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin City Interfaith Forum took part in an “Act of Lament” in November. Informing the moving and sensitive ceremony was the hope that we would move from war to peace. But what “war” we were talking about was never mentioned and what a just and lasting peace might look like was never clearly said. It was a skilful negotiation of the differences in the room (Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist), but meant that things were stated only in the vaguest possible terms to ensure everyone was on board.

Yet as the atrocities being committed in Gaza grow more and more harrowing, it becomes personally impossible to continue speaking in vague terms, when a forthright response is called for. Yet if we speak out against the genocide in an interfaith context, some members might disagree.

I think it is important to remember our own history in this regard. While the IRA murdered people on behalf of our “tribe”, many of us had no issue saying that the killing was not done in our name. If the Troubles taught us anything, it’s that we can speak out against the actions of one side in the conflict, even while still supporting the same broad political aims.

And just as violent republicanism and a dear wish for national sovereignty are not the same thing, so it is with Zionism and Jewish identity. To be Jewish and Zionist are not the same thing. If they were, there wouldn’t be the number of Jewish peace activists that there are. Untangling this knot allows us to fearlessly speak out against what Israel is doing in Palestine – even in an interfaith context. In the words of Irish lawyer Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh KC at the International Court of Justice, this is “the first genocide in history where victims are broadcasting their destruction in real time in the hopes that the world might do something”.

She added that: “The world should be absolutely ashamed.”

And so we should. It is possible to support our Jewish friends and neighbours, while at the same time speaking out against the unspeakable crimes now playing out in Gaza, fully supported by morally bankrupt western governments.

That is why I will continue to care for the welfare of the Jewish people I know. It is also why I will have marched in my Buddhist robes yesterday, for an end to the killing and in the hope that we might move toward a just and negotiated peace.

Myozan Ian Kilroy is a Zen Buddhist priest and a Buddhist member of the Dublin City Interfaith Forum. He runs the Dublin Zen Centre and teaches at the TU Dublin School of Media.