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What U.S. Jews must do to fight anti-Muslim bigotry

I’m proud of American Jews mobilizing to fight Islamophobia. But to fully fight hate, U.S. Jews must confront the role pro-Israel organizations continue to play in spreading anti-Muslim bigotry.

By David Harris-Gershon

Coexist (Photo by 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com)

Coexist (Photo by 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com)

Anti-Muslim rhetoric coming from American lawmakers and presidential candidates reached a fevered pitch earlier this month when, standing before a cheering crowd aboard the USS Yorktown in South Carolina, Donald Trump called for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States. This call came on the heels of Trump and Ben Carson calling for mosques to be monitored, Senator Marco Rubio suggesting that places where Muslim-Americans gather be shut down, and hundreds of lawmakers voting to turn away Syrian refugees.

These anti-Muslim policies, and the Islamophobia at their core, no longer reside on the fringes in America. They have seeped into the mainstream. Today, a majority of conservative voters support them, and poll numbers often rise for those Republican politicians who choose to double down by exploiting anti-Muslim sentiments. Such policies — and the hateful incitement politicians use when proposing them — are inspiring horrific hate crimes against Muslim-Americans. In the week after Trump’s Muslim ban comments, a California mosque was torched, an Arizona mosque was vandalized, two Muslim women in Florida were violently attacked, a Muslim deli owner in New York was beaten, and a Muslim child in Georgia was asked by a teacher, “Do you have a bomb in your backpack?”

I have been heartened in recent weeks to see many Jewish leaders and pro-Israel institutions, shocked by the historical reverberations, stand up for Muslims under attack. After all, in 1939 it was Jews fleeing Hitler who were demonized and blocked from reaching America’s shores. This stuff hits close to home for American Jews. Which is why 11 Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), recently signed a letter to Congress declaring that “to turn our back on [Syrian] refugees would be to betray our nation’s core values.” It is also why the ADL was quick to blast Trump last week.

However, such public pronouncements, as wonderful as they have been, conceal a troubling truth which the institutional Jewish community and U.S. Jews invested in Israel must confront if we are to root out anti-Muslim bigotry: in the post-9/11 era, pro-Israel donors, institutions and the Israel lobby have often fueled the very Islamophobia now suddenly catching fire in America, doing so as a strategy for smearing Palestinians.

File photo of Donald Trump (Albert H. Teich / Shutterstock.com)

File photo of Donald Trump. (Albert H. Teich / Shutterstock.com)

Promoting and showcasing anti-Muslim bigots has become a troubling pattern for the Israel lobby, particularly its most powerful arm: the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). One example occurred in 2007, when Pastor John Hagee – one of the loudest anti-Muslim voices on the Christian right – was invited to give a keynote address at AIPAC’s policy conference. Not only has Hagee engaged in Holocaust revisionism, but his Islamophobia prompted the Center for American Progress (CAP) to highlight him as a prime example of anti-Muslim hatred fomenting in evangelical circles. Even John McCain rejected his endorsement in 2008, despite the huge potential gains. And yet, crowds cheered him at AIPAC, where he has been given a platform.

Another example is Steve Emerson, who has been invited to speak at AIPAC’s policy conferences multiple times. CAP identified Emerson as one of the five most influential “misinformation experts” in America. Head of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Emerson is best known for creating outlandish claims to support the theory that Muslim-Americans are plotting jihad in this country, such as the one repeated by a Republican congressman on Fox News that “80 to 85 percent of mosques … are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists.” With AIPAC giving platforms to such purveyors of hate, it is no surprise that the organization has remained silent as Syrian refugees are smeared and anti-Muslim bigotry runs rampant.

Of course, organizations are influenced by those who financially support them. And a deep dive into the world of Jewish, pro-Israel donors reveals that some of the most influential people spreading anti-Muslim bigotry are funded by American Jews with deep connections to the Israel lobby and pro-Israel organizations. This includes the Jewish Communal Fund, which has supported Pamela Geller and the Clarion Fund, and former AIPAC board member Nina Rosenwald, who has given millions to some of the most notorious bigots. This includes Daniel Pipes, who has made spreading Islamophobic misinformation a multi-million dollar profession as head of the Middle East Forum, where he has notoriously argued that Muslim-Americans should be racially profiled and denied constitutionally protected rights.

Why are pro-Israel organizations and donors fueling anti-Muslim bigotry when most American Jews reject such hate? Troublingly, too many Jewish institutions see propagating Islamophobia as a way of supporting Israel. Matt Duss, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (full disclosure: FMEP is a +972 donor), once wrote that for some, “support for the Jewish state is a zero-sum contest between favoring Israel and favoring Arabs and Muslims. For too many American Jews, smearing Islam is seen as a legitimate expression of Zionism.”

I’m proud of American Jews mobilizing to fight the Islamophobia being fomented by figures like Trump. However, to fully fight such hate, U.S. Jews must confront the role pro-Israel organizations have played – and continue to play – in spreading Islamophobia as a zero-sum justification for smearing Palestinians. Otherwise, even as U.S. Jews publicly fight the purveyors of hate from without, by giving cover from within to those spreading hate, not only will Muslim-Americans continue to be endangered, so too will those Palestinians being occupied and oppressed by Israel.

For they are the true target.

David Harris-Gershon is a writer for Tikkun and author of ‘What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?

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    COMMENTS

      • Ginger Eis

        “Study Exposes Dept of Mulim Antisemitism in Europe

        A new study published by the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy (ISGAP) confirms what many have long suspected: that the worst crimes against Jews in Europe are perpetrated by (European) Muslims, and that Muslims have been responsible for a “disproportionate” number of anti-Semitic attacks over the past 15 years. And it isn’t just about Israel. (…).”

        http://www.algemeiner.com/2015/05/13/study-exposes-depth-of-muslim-antisemitism-in-europe/#

        We all love to fight bigotry against any human being regardless of his/her race. Muslims can help US Jews fight anti-Muslim bigotry in the following manners: Muslims must PUBLICLY call on their fellow Muslims to (a) STOP the bigotry and anti-Semitism against Jews, (b) STOP the harassment of Jewish students on US campuses, (c) STOP the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish State in the United State, call off their support for BDS against the Jewish State and most importantly (d) harshly CONDEMN in no uncertain terms the racist butcher of Jews by Muslims in the streets of Israel simply because they are Jews – in order to make political gains/points! It is rather idiotic to ignore Muslim anti-Semitism and bigotry against Jews, pretend that they do not exist and preach about “What US Jews must do to fight anti-Muslim bigotry” even as US Jews are fight deep rooted Muslim Antisemitism in the US, Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.

        Reply to Comment
          • Daniel

            Ben,

            I think you are misrepresenting Ginger again. I read the same comment and this is what it says: “harshly CONDEMN in no uncertain terms the racist butcher of Jews by Muslims in the streets of Israel simply because they are Jews – in order to make political gains/points!”. Why are you misrepresenting that?

            In the link you posted, I pointed out to you and YR the terrorists specifically target Jews and Jews alone for killing. The victims who are not Jewish are either killed mistakenly or considered collateral. The terrorists may have political intentions, but it does not change the fact that they target their victims based on the fact that the victims are Jews. That is not exactly too difficult to understand, is it?

            If you have any intelligent comments to make then make them, or else stop this idiotic obsession with Ginger. Every descent person read with disgust the disgusting posts you posted about Ginger, while posing as “Israel” here: http://972mag.com/thousands-march-in-tel-aviv-against-growing-right-wing-incitement/114957/

            If you can’t find the strength in you stop your sickening behavior on your own, you need serious psychiatric help, Ben. You are not normal.

            You can take my advice or you can bring out “Israel” to continue disgracing yourself.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I choose to wait to hear from Eis herself on this. Thanks. You’ve been discredited. We don’t listen to defenders of Benzti Gopstein. I’m sure there’s a neonazzy forum you can join somewhere though.

            Yeah Right’s and my critiques of Eis’s acts of vilification stand intact. Untouched by any substantive critique. Vilification of a critique of vilification is still vilification.

            Reply to Comment
          • Daniel

            “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions”.

            • Proverb 18:2

            You have to see a shrink, Ben – fast!

            Reply to Comment
    1. jane

      There are 5 times more hate crimes against Jews than Muslims. In the aftermath of Islamic terrorist attacks Muslims still face less violence then Jews usually do. This is true in both the US and Europe. Jews make up 2% of the world’s population and Muslims make up 20%. No, Muslims need to apologize for their 50 years of egging on anti-Jewish hatred and refusing to curtail it. Muslims claim anti-Muslim rhetoric causes violence towards them and will cause Muslims to radicalize. Why don’t they claim anti-Jewish rhetoric by Muslims and Palestinian supporters has the same effect?

      Reply to Comment
      • Felix Reichert

        Nice made up numbers. Or do you actually have a source?

        Reply to Comment
        • Merkava

          Oh boy…..so, Felix Reichert who uses fake quotes and no sources to support his false claims is now asking for source? You Felix the fox guarding the hen house? What in the world?! Here is a source, Feilix: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_by_country Let me know if you need more. Does Felix not understand that Jews make up only 0.017% of European population, approx 2% of the US population and LESS THAN 0.02% of the world population, while the Muslim population worldwide is 1.6billion and make-up approx 22% of world population? But because Felix Reichert is less about substance and more about scoring cheap points and demonizing Israel, that subtle point just flew over his head. Go home Felix! It’s Christmas in Germany. Go have some Glühwein and calm down, moron, and say Merry Christmas to the rest of the People of Germany who are great friends of Israel.

          Reply to Comment
    2. BV

      One thing they could do is prove they aren’t hypocrites and open Israel’s doors to some of those refugees. They think they can keep a closed door policy while we are suppose to open the gates of destruction? They love Israel and hate the West evidently.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jon

      And once again David proves his “chops” to his anti-Semitic supporters. Take a look at those supporting him. Now, you will notice that David will not denounce their idiocy, (although hypocritically, he says that those individuals that don’t take the same position as him on issues, or that do not issue the same condemnations he does are complicit in the bad actions he chooses to condemn).

      Anyhow, this particular screed draws straight from the depths of the anti-Zionist movement and could if you did not know the author, be something that would appear at davidduke.com or stormfront.com. Particularly when he says this:

      “Of course, organizations are influenced by those who financially support them. And a deep dive into the world of Jewish, pro-Israel donors reveals that some of the most influential people spreading anti-Muslim bigotry are funded by American Jews with deep connections to the Israel lobby and pro-Israel organizations.”

      Now to be fair there are members of the community like Pamela Geller and others who are bigoted towards Muslims. STILL, the majority of supporters of the Pro-Israel movement are not. Moreover, David assets that the “most influential members” of this movement are Jews when he presents absolutely ZERO context of back-up for his assertion, rather he names a few individuals and highlights their bigotry or bigoted connections.

      But what is really insidious about this article (and shame on you +972 for allowing an obvious anti-Semite and anti-Zionist like David to print in what is ostensibly a progressive on-line magazine), is his implied assertion that Jews and pro-Israel organizations are (in large part) the ones responsible for Islamophobia in the U.S. When the reality of the situation is that Islamophobia is fueled more by Rightists who hate “others” and feel insecure about their own economic and social status. Not to mention that David “demands” action from U.S. Jews as if we were some monolith that actually coordinated our political actions (another common theme of anti-Semites).

      Reply to Comment