I’m shocked – shocked, I tell you! – that the Anti-Defamation League has joined the alliance of militant Christians, militantly atheistic “Objectivists,” and other assorted militant nut-jobs in calling for a ban on the so-called “Ground Zero mosque, “ otherwise known as Cordoba House. After all, why would an organization ostensibly devoted to “civil rights” and “tolerance” get in bed with Pamela “Shrieking Harpy” Geller, the Religious Right, and Leonard Peikoff, the Peripatetic Pipsqueak?
To find out, let’s travel to the ADL web site and read their statement of policy on the matter:
“We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.”
So far, so good: no indications of militant craziness here, just the same old bromides we’ve heard from the ADL all these years, and, just in case we don’t get the message that these are just your average, everyday Jewish liberals, there’s more reassurances up front:
“We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry. However …”
Uh oh! Here it comes:
“There are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site. We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.”
Since it wasn’t Islam that attacked and demolished the World Trade Center, but a marginal group of fanatics who used religion as a cover for their blood lust, what the ADL is referring to here are the “strong passions” of Islamophobes who hate everything to do with Islam – why, those poor sensitive souls, their feelings must be woefully hurt! One question, though: Are the “keen sensitivities” of those who conflate one of the world’s greatest religions with the handful of thugs and cut-throats who killed 3,000 people on 9/11 really something that needs to be taken into account? What if, in the wake of the 1967 bombing of the USS Liberty by Israeli warplanes – in which 34 US servicemen were slaughtered – a campaign had been mounted to banish all synagogues from a two-mile radius of Arlington National Cemetery? How would the ADL have reacted?
Surely they would have vehemently disagreed with those who – invoking the families of our fallen sailors – justified such a loopy and transparently bigoted proposal, especially if these bigots had the chutzpah to argue that these synagogues were “counterproductive to the healing process.” Yet this is how the ADL rationalizes their opposition to Cordoba House – speaking the same language of collective guilt that informs the lexicon of anti-Semitic crazies the world over.
The ADL has always opposed conspiracy theories, as a matter of high principle, and are quick to compare them – no matter how much evidence accrues to their credibility – with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious anti-Semitic forgery. Yet “in these unique circumstances,” as Foxman & Co. put it, they are perfectly willing to embrace a conspiracy theory that accuses the builders of Cordoba House of receiving money from “terrorist” sources: that the whole project is a plot by radical Islamists with lots of cash to rub our noses in the 9/11 terrorist attacks – just in time for the ninth anniversary!
What is the evidence for this conspiracy theory? The answer is: none, not even a shred. Indeed, those who raise the issue of the source of the funding don’t bother offering any: they merely call for an investigation on the grounds that, apparently, any and all Muslims are automatically suspect. This is what the ADL is enabling and endorsing: defamation, pure and simple.
Claudia Rosett, a writer for Forbes who is also affiliated with the “Foundation for the Defense of Democracies” – originally known as “Emet,” an Israeli-funded propaganda front group that may very well have received at least part of its start-up funding from overseas – demands an accounting of Cordoba House’s finances “down to the last penny.”
Rosett’s harpyish hectoring has to be read to be believed: told that the project director Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is traveling, and unavailable for an interview, she wants to know why he’s traveling so much these days. Is his trip a fundraising tour? Is he raising money from people who don’t “love America”? Bereft of facts, her argument depends on the very lack of solid information conveyed in her piece. According to the Claudia Rosett School of Jurisprudence, one is guilty unless and until proven innocent. Building while Muslim – it’s the new driving-while-black.
Utilizing the sort of Bizarro “logic” that enables the ADL to come out in favor of defamation, Rosett avers:
“In other words, is any of his fundraising getting a boost from the high-profile debate and distress generated by his plans? One would hope that Rauf picked the site with the best of intentions. But on the chance that the choice amounts in any way to a cynical fundraising stunt, or even a dangerous appeal to potential donors who have lots of money but no love lost for America, full and regular public disclosure of his backers, prospects, plans and financial books would surely help clarify the situation.”
Rauf is to be blamed for the controversy that Rosett, the ADL, and the neoconservative wing of the GOP have generated: it was all a plot, you see, a “cynical” fundraising ploy.
What an odd admission for Rosett to make: that she is herself apparently a willing dupe of this Vast Muslim Conspiracy. After all, you can’t get much more “high profile” than the pages of Forbes.
I admit to not being all that shocked that ADL director Abe Foxman has finally gone over the edge. His latest shenanigans are but the end of a long career in which he has at last become a perfect caricature of himself. Clear evidence of his advanced state of senile dementia comes near the end the official ADL statement, where the “theoretical” justification for this blatantly bigoted and clearly totalitarian hate campaign is pronounced, in all seriousness:
“Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.”
Forget about rights, constitutional and/or natural [.pdf], secular or God-given: these human constructs crumble to dust before the ADL’s own concept of “what is right.” And “what is right” is measured in terms of how much unnecessary pain is experienced by “some victims.”
Who are these victims? The relatives and loved ones of those who died that fateful day? Of course, all of us could be termed “victims” of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, because all of us have had to endure nearly a decade of constant warfare, and a concerted attack on our constitutional rights since that day. And it hasn’t stopped, yet – indeed, our collectively experienced pain seems to be on the increase, lately, as the US war machine revs up its motors for a go at Pakistan, and Iran.
This is nothing new for the ADL, which has been in the forefront of speech suppression and political intolerance at least since the postwar years, when it spent a lot of its energies going after conservatives who opposed US intervention in World War II. For an organization supposedly devoted to battling ethnic defamation, the ADL was not among those who protested the internment of Japanese-Americans, Italian-Americans, and some German-Americans in concentration camps for the duration of the war. Nor did we hear from them when the state of Israel established a system sickeningly reminiscent of South Africa’s apartheid in the occupied territories of Palestine. Indeed, the ADL has, in recent years, become little more than a de facto adjunct of the Israeli government, a knee-jerk defender of whatever repressive and increasingly anti-American behavior Tel Aviv cares to indulge in.
Under Abe Foxman’s idiosyncratic and embarrassingly erratic leadership, a league founded in order to oppose defamation of ethnic and religious minorities has attached itself to a movement devoted to precisely the sort of bigotry it has traditionally abhorred. Due to this bizarre development – albeit one not entirely unpredictable – one of two things should happen. Either 1) Foxman steps down, in disgrace and humiliation, after issuing the appropriately heartfelt apology, and seeks professional help, or 2) The ADL announces a name change to reflect its newfound orientation.
After merging with such like-minded organizations as the English Defense League (a group of violent football hooligans endorsed by Pamela Geller, the founding leader of the anti-Cordoba House movement), and their American co-thinkers, a much larger ADL could be built – but only if they’ll change their name to announce their new ideological orientation. If they want to get in on the anti-Muslim action, they’ll have to shed their tolerant liberal image – and history – and do a complete makeover. May I suggest the Pro-Defamation League? It’s bold, it’s trendy, it’s now.