Jewish Journal, January 29, 2009
In face of Israel’s latest killing spree in Gaza, the Muslim community has made sure to steadfastly and unequivocally condemn even the slightest attempts at defaming, demeaning or blaming Judaism or its followers for Israel’s brutal attacks on Gaza.
Islam not only denounces, in the strongest manner possible, all forms of bigotry, but specifically teaches Muslims to revere and follow all Hebrew prophets who are praised in the Quran. Actually, those Hebrew prophets and their followers are considered to be the early Muslims, according to Islamic theology.
Muslims are touched and inspired by many of the protests and vigils in the United States and Israel on Gaza’s devastation that were led by strong Jewish voices critical of Israel’s barbaric actions. Thousands of Israeli and American Jews spoke out against the killings and destruction in Gaza. Those courageous voices include those of Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Akiva Eldar, Jeff Halper (the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions), LA Jews for Peace, and Jewish Voice for Peace, among thousands others.
As is the case in large protests, one cannot control every person’s shout or sign – although organizers in Los Angeles and Chicago made hundreds of signs that featured political and non-religious, nonviolent messages – in keeping with the Islamic spirit. We additionally took care to promptly remove the few individuals who did not share our respectful messages.
I am sure Rabbi Abraham Cooper does not want us believing that every Jewish protester in support of Israel harbors anti-Islam bigotry as expressed by several protesters in New York and documented in many online videos.
It is ironic that the day we read this column by the leaders of the so-called Museum of Tolerance, Israel’s leading English newspaper published two news reports: one in which Israeli soldiers were accused of writing racist graffiti (“Arabs need 2 die,“ “Make war not peace”, and “1 is down, 999,999 to go”), and another report on Israeli soldiers being distributed pamphlets by Jewish extremists, urging them to show “no mercy” toward Palestinians in Gaza and stating “this is a war on murderers.”
I wonder if such hateful language constitutes intolerance worth denouncing by the Museum of Tolerance. I will surely not be holding my breath.
Of all those who speak out on intolerance and hate, the Wiesenthal Center should be the last to speak on this matter, considering its outrageous involvement in the desecration of one of the largest historic Muslim cemeteries in Jerusalem, where it is building a “Museum of Tolerance” over Muslim graves and removing dead bodies, against the overwhelming objections and pleas of Muslim and Jewish religious leaders in Israel. Such desecration of Muslim graves continues as the Wiesenthal Center marks the liberation of Auschwitz – the largest Jewish cemetery in the world.
These ironies have earned the Wiesenthal Center the dubious name of “Museum of Selective Tolerance.”
It is clear that Rabbi Cooper has other objectives in penning his op-ed.
First, Rabbi Cooper and his organization seek to silence any legitimate criticism of Israel by wrongly equating such criticism with anti-Semitism. We can freely criticize any policy of the U.S. government any time but that’s not the case with Israel.
Second, by taking isolated and publicly-condemned incidents of anti-Semitism worldwide, the Wiesenthal Center insists on promoting paranoia and victimization in the Jewish community for cheap, selfish goals of shoring up support for extremist groups such as Mr. Cooper’s.
We must respect that many Muslims and Jews will continue to disagree politically but we must also be vigilant about and reject extremist voices amongst us who engage in bigotry, fear and the demonization of the other.