SALEM – A Salem cleric with Palestinian roots who built deep ties with the North Shore Jewish community, and who also served in the past on Salem’s No Place for Hate Committee, has taken the lead in organizing two anti-Israel protests in Salem, and has also posted anti-Israel, anti-Jewish comments on his Facebook page.
For years, Fawaz Abusharkh – representing the Islamic Society of the North Shore in Lynn – was part of an interfaith dialogue that included Christian and Jewish clergy north of Boston. He spoke publicly at temples, and in 2022, he delivered the benediction at Lynn Mayor Jared C. Nicholson’s inaugural.
In the last few weeks, Abusharkh has made his feelings about Israel and Jews known on social media. On Oct. 26, he posted a meme on his Facebook page of a person throwing a Jewish Star of David labeled “Israel” into a trash bin. In addition, he has posted films that compare Israel to Nazi Germany and the Palestinians in Gaza to European Jews such as Anne Frank. On Facebook, he frequently called Israel an apartheid nation, and posted cartoons – including one in which President Biden holds Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is drinking from a baby’s bottle, identified as “Gazans’ blood.”
At a rally attended by 75 on Nov. 4 in Salem, Abusharkh helped lead a chant, “Free, free Palestine … From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” That mantra, which was repeated at rallies through major European and American cities, calls for the elimination of Israel – which is located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In an interview at the rally, Abusharkh said he was no longer a clergy representative of the Islamic Society of the North Shore. He denied that his meme of a Star of David – the symbol of the Jewish people – in a trash can was antisemitic. Instead, he accused Israel of committing genocide.
“Anybody who does something like this doesn’t belong in this world, belongs in the trash,” he said.
When asked about Hamas, he refused to comment.
Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League New England, said his organization no longer has a No Place for Hate program in Salem. He added that Abusharkh’s social media posts “stoke antisemitism and are antithetical to the aim of ensuring that Salem is no place for hate.”
Rabbi David Cohen-Henriquez, who formerly served as rabbi at Temple Sinai in Marblehead, and Pastor James Bixby of the Clifton Lutheran Church in Marblehead, worked with Abusharkh on an interfaith food project. When reached for comment, Cohen-Henriquez and Bixby said they had not been in touch with Abusharkh for several years, and called his Facebook posts antisemitic.
“Antisemitism trumps all of his ideologies,” said Rabbi Cohen-Henriquez, who is now the spiritual leader of a New Orleans congregation. “I’m shocked, I’m disgusted.”
Added Pastor Bixby, “He’s feeding right into the antisemitism narrative.”