Once an ardently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic radical Muslim, now a proud Zionist. Not too many people own that bio, but that’s exactly how Kasim Hafeez describes himself.
Hafeez was born into a British Muslim household to Pakistani parents “and with the constant drip of indoctrination at home and in my circle of friends, became both anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic in my teen years,” he writes on his website. He says his father would frequently praise Adolf Hitler, describing the Nazi dictator’s only shortcoming as his failure to kill even more Jews during the Holocaust. In his community, he was bombarded with messages calling for the destruction of Israel which was perpetually presented as a terror state.
Hafeez says he bullied Jews in college and it was only after reading Alan Dershowitz's "The Case for Israel" that he began to doubt his beliefs. In fact he had planned to read the book as an exercise in deconstructing the "vile Zionist propaganda," but it ended up challenging him to the core.
He did what few would do in his shoes. He decided to challenge his own prejudices and in 2007 got on a plane to visit the state so despised by his community. He was shocked by what he saw and writes in an op-ed:
I did not encounter an apartheid racist state, but rather, quite the opposite. I was confronted by synagogues, mosques and churches, by Jews and Arabs living together, by minorities playing huge parts in all areas of Israeli life, from the military to the judiciary. It was shocking and eye-opening. This wasn't the evil Zionist Israel that I had been told about.
He describes to the Times of Israel how his investigation included circling a bus stop twice “looking for indications of racial segregation, a sign saying ‘Arabs only.’ I couldn’t find any.” His treatment in Israel "stood in stark contrast to the racial abuse he had suffered as a tourist in Saudi Arabia a few years earlier, where people would pass him in line saying, 'You’re Pakistani. You can wait.'"
After visiting Israel, I fell in love with the place and felt more at home there then I have anywhere in the world, on my return I became convinced that I had to take a stand. I had to do what's right, I had to speak out for Israel, and bring the Israel I know to those around me, and not let them be misled by the lies that filled my mind with hate for so many years.
As a result, the British-Pakistani-Muslim founded The Israel Campaign, dedicated to defending Israel, the “democracy under siege” by battling misconceptions about Israel rife in the mainstream media. He is also on the advisory board of Stand With Us, a group that advocates for Israel on campus and elsewhere. He writes, “No other state is the target of such malicious propaganda, boycott and divestment campaigns to damage the viability of the tiny state.”
As part of his new mission, Hafeez is visiting Israel this week and recently completed a campus speaking tour titled “The Day I Stopped Hating Israel - Confessions of an Ex-Radical.” In an interview to Ynet (full video below), he says:
"A lot of this hatred and intolerance comes from ignorance. People don’t know the facts…Israel can do no right in the UK press. Israel always is wrong and everything has a very negative slant. It has become very black and white, where the Palestinians are right, and Israel is wrong… It is helping poison people towards Israel because they are not being told the truth of the conflict. I think there is a case of if you tell a lie enough times, people accept it as being true."
Meanwhile the former Nakba Day rally participant plods his uncharted path as a “proud Muslim Zionist,” promoting what he now knows to be the truth about Israel, and hopes to ultimately prevent others from growing up “brain-washed” as he believes he did. Even as he faces hostility from his own community, he says, “It is not easy, and that’s what makes it so necessary. This isn’t about religion and politics; it’s about the truth.”
Watch the interview Kasim Hafeez gave to Ynet in Israel: