Rabbi Avi Shafran
When Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson recently asserted that Islam "is not a peaceful religion that wants to coexist" and that Muslims only "want to coexist until they can control, dominate and then, if need be, destroy," he was accused of wielding an excessively broad brush.
There are many hundreds of millions of Muslims in the world, it was argued, and it is hardly fair to assume that they all were sympathetic to the September 11 terrorists or support those who have murdered innocents in the name of Islam in Israel, India, the Philippines or any of a number of other countries.
But Hussein Ibish, a spokesman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee went somewhat further. He charged that Mr. Robertson's "rhetoric is exactly the same as traditional anti-Semitism."
"All you can do," he claimed, "is change the word 'Jew' to 'Arab' or 'Muslim '."
That statement, at first glance an innocent plea for tolerance, on closer inspection takes on a less attractive color. Its equation of Jew-hatred with fear of Islamist terror is not only misleading, it is offensive.
When Jews have been accused of seeking world-domination or of killing innocents, the charges were outright lies, fabrications born of nothing but a devil's brew of fantasy and hatred. There are no malevolent elders of Zion (reportage to the contrary in much of the Arab press notwithstanding), no Jews who kill children to use their blood for Passover matzos (ditto), and no Jewish plots to coerce others to accept Judaism; Jews are in fact enjoined by their faith from proselytizing. There are no Jews who kill in the name of Judaism or who have exploded bombs in public places; there are no calls from synagogue pulpits to kill infidels. When, nearly a decade ago, an individual Jew acting entirely on his own killed innocent Arabs in Hebron, every Jewish religious leader of note condemned the Jewishly outrageous act without reservation.
In stark contrast, whether the Islamic world's malicious haters express a perversion of Islam or are inherently characteristic of it, they certainly cannot be dismissed as insignificant aberrations. And violence in the name of Islam is regularly "explained" and justified, if not embraced outright, by an assortment of leading Islamic religious leaders. Imagine if those leaders - or Mr. Ibish - reacted to every Muslim murder of an "infidel" like Jewish leaders unhesitatingly reacted to the isolated act of Boruch Goldstein.
The same day The New York Times carried Mr. Robertson's and Mr. Ibish's remarks, it also reported that some words and the death of Daniel Pearl, the Wall St. Journal reporter abducted by Muslim extremists in Pakistan had been preserved by his murderers on videotape, a sort of radical Islamic home movie. Whether of his own volition or by coercion, Mr. Pearl identified himself as a Jew before his throat was slit and his head cut off.
The reporter had harmed no one. His only crime was that of the thousands killed on September 11: being an American. And, in his case - like Kobi Mandel, the 14-year-old Israeli boy beaten and stabbed to death while hiking with a friend, or Shalhevet Pass, the infant targeted by an Arab sniper, or the hundreds of others murdered or maimed over recent months - being a Jew.
Mr. Ibish would do well to consider the vicious hatred behind all those murders, and what they all have in common: the invocation of Islam. And then he might consider further whether he knows of any Jews who cut off innocent people's heads, stab children to death or aim powerful rifles at babies. And why there are no Jewish camps where young men are trained to murder innocents, and why no Jewish children are taught to hate and shoot and kill.
How refreshing it would have been had the Muslim spokesman responded to Mr. Robertson with an acknowledgment that there is indeed, regrettably, an evil and hateful element within the Islamic world. How hopeful it would have been had he offered a clear and unqualified condemnation of that stream, and a straightforward denouncement of the Arab world's ongoing demonization of Jews and Americans - instead of a subtle but snide insinuation that anyone who dares condemn that stream is no different from an anti-Semite.
AM ECHAD RESOURCES
Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.