The news from Garland, Texas, last week was appalling. Two depraved young men, possibly motivated by ISIS propaganda, opened fire on people at an exhibit of cartoons and caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms the vicious actions of these criminals. As rabbis, we regard this attack as utterly sinful and indefensible. We commend the law enforcement officers who subdued the assailants, and we pray that the private security guard wounded by the attackers has a speedy and full recovery, body and spirit.
At the same time, we are deeply disturbed by the actions of the organizers of this event: Pamela Geller and her associates at the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative. While we do not dispute Ms. Geller’s First Amendment right to trumpet even the most heinous of views, as Jewish religious leaders we feel compelled to speak out against her decision, in the name of free speech, to publicly insult and demean another religious tradition.
We express solidarity with the many American Muslims who feel wounded by this malicious disregard of their sacred heritage. Further, we are dismayed that a member of the American Jewish community led this incendiary effort. We can only imagine how upset we would be if a group set up a public display of cartoons mocking Jews, offering (as was the case here) a $10,000 prize for the “best” rendering.
Our long history as a persecuted and often taunted minority does not allow us to stand by in silence when such an act is perpetrated against another religious community in our society. Jewish history and teaching compel us to denounce such offensive and inflammatory behavior.
Dr, Mehnaz M. Afridi, a scholar and observant Muslim, describes how a visit to Dachau in 2007 as a doctoral student became a defining moment in her professional (and I assume also in her personal) life:
Early in the summer of 2007, a doctoral student named Mehnaz M. Afridi traveled from her California home to a conference in southern Germany. Her official role was to deliver a paper on anti-Semitism in Egyptian literature, a rather loaded subject for a Muslim scholar. Seventy miles away, she had another appointment, and an even riskier agenda.
After the conference concluded, Ms. Afridi drove to the former concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. As she stood before the dun bricks of a crematorium, she prayed. “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un,” she said in Arabic, meaning, “Surely we belong to God and to him shall we return.”
“I didn’t know that moment would be defining my role,” Dr. Afridi, 44, said a few weeks ago. “I didn’t even realize then that I was at a crossroads. People see the Holocaust and Islam as two separate things, but these stories of faith and catastrophe are not opposites. They are companions.”
Dr. Afridi has made these seeming irreconcilables into companions in her life’s work. An assistant professor of religion at Manhattan College, she teaches courses about both Islam and the Holocaust, and she is director of the college’s Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center. Her book “Shoah Through Muslim Eyes,” referring to an alternative term for the Holocaust, will be published in July, and she is a member of the ethics and religion committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. […]
As you can probably imagine, her stance has also made her a target in some circles, both Muslim and Jewish. Read the rest of her story to find out more:
Muslim Scholar, Looking to ‘Speak the Truth,’ Teaches the Holocaust and Islam
Is there a state that faces a specific existential threat right now? Yes again. That state is South Korea.
South Korea has no nuclear weapons of its own, though the U.S. has extended its “nuclear umbrella.” Its immediate neighbor, North Korea, does have nukes, which it tested and developed while the U.S. was distracted in Iraq. North Korea’s leaders are peculiar, to put it mildly, and have repeatedly promised / threatened to destroy South Korea in a “sea of fire” in rhetoric as blood-curdling as any anti-Israel rant from Iran. South Korea’s population center is practically on the border with the North, rather than several time zones away as with Iran relative to Israel.
It would be better for everyone except North Korea if it had no nukes, but the South Korean president was not invited to address Congress during the GW Bush years to demand tougher action against North Korea.
Is Israel’s situation comparable to that on the Korean peninsula—or, to use the more familiar parallel, to that of European Jews menaced by Hitler in 1938? It most emphatically is not, if you pay any attention to the underlying facts.
The most obvious difference is that Israel is the incumbent (if unacknowledged) nuclear power in the region, with the universally understood ability to annihilate any attacker in a retaliatory raid. The only similarity between this power balance and the predicament of European Jewry in 1938 is the anti-Semitism. In 1938 the Jews of Germany, Poland, France, and Russia were a stateless minority with no military force of their own to protect them and no foreign power (including the U.S.) willing to step in. In 2015 Israel is a powerful independent state, more heavily armed than any adversary.
Think of this parallel: The full-tilt U.S. slave economy of the 1850s and the police-shooting abuses of 2015 have in common racist anti-black prejudice, but they are not the same situations. One was resolved only by cataclysmic war. The other is very serious but not the prelude to north-versus-south combat. The Iranian rhetoric of 2015 and the Nazi death machine of the Reich have in common anti-Semitic hate-mongering. But the differences between them are far more obvious than the similarities.
The headlines have been grim. Europe’s Jews face “rising anti-Semitism”; in some countries, many are leaving in “record numbers.” In separate incidents in recent months, gunmen have targeted Jews and Jewish institutions in Paris and Copenhagen. Even the Jewish dead have not been left in peace, with reports of graves being desecrated.
But the future of tolerance and multiculturalism in Europe is far from bleak. The bigotry on view has been carried out by a fringe minority, cast all the more in the shade by the huge peace marches and vigils that followed the deadly attacks. And some communities are trying to build solidarity in their home towns and cities.
One group of Muslims in Norway plans to form a “ring of peace” around a synagogue in Oslo on Saturday. On a Facebook page promoting the event, the group explained its motivations. Here’s a translated version of the invite:
Islam is about protecting our brothers and sisters, regardless of which religion they belong to. Islam is about rising above hate and never sinking to the same level as the haters. Islam is about defending each other. Muslims want to show that we deeply deplore all types of hatred of Jews, and that we are there to support them. We will therefore create a human ring around the synagogue on Saturday 21 February. Encourage everyone to come!
THE first victims of the First Crusade, inspired in 1096 by the supposedly sacred mission of retaking Jerusalem from Muslims, were European Jews. Anyone who considers it religiously and politically transgressive to compare the behavior of medieval Christian soldiers to modern Islamic terrorism might find it enlightening to read this bloody story, as told in both Hebrew and Christian chronicles.
The message from the medieval past is that religious violence seldom limits itself to one target and expands to reach the maximum number of available victims.
Just as the Crusades were integrally linked to Roman Catholicism in the Middle Ages, terrorist movements today are immersed in a particular anti-modern interpretation of Islam. This does not imply that a majority of Muslims agree with violent religious ideology. It does mean that the terrorists’ brand of belief plays a critical role in their savage assault on human rights.
Cultural ignoramuses portrayed President Obama’s references to the Crusades and the Inquisition at the recent National Prayer Breakfast as an excuse for Islamic terrorism, but the president’s allusions could and should have been used as an opportunity to reflect on the special damage inflicted in many historical contexts by warriors seeking conquest in the name of their god.
Times were hard in northern Europe when the crusaders began to gather in the spring of 1096. A disappointing harvest in 1095 had brought famine to the poor. As James Carroll observes in “Constantine’s Sword,” there is “no doubt the crusading impulse rescued many serfs, but also landowners, from desperate economic straits.”
Pope Urban II did not tell crusaders to murder Jews, but that is what happened when at least 100,000 knights, vassals and serfs, unmoored from ordinary social restraints but bearing the standard of the cross, set off to crush what they considered a perfidious Muslim enemy in a faraway land. Why not practice on that older group accused of perfidy — the Jews?
The city of Trier, on the Moselle River, was one of the early stops. The Jews were, according to a Hebrew chronicle, offered the choice of conversion, exile or death — similar to the choices offered by groups like the Islamic State and Boko Haram. After the Jews of Trier made an unsuccessful attempt, by paying off a bishop, to persuade the crusaders to bypass their community, they sought refuge in the prelate’s palace.
The chronicle recounts that “the bishop’s military officer and ministers entered the palace and said to them: ‘Thus said our lord the bishop: Convert or leave this place. I do not wish to preserve you any longer.’ ” It goes on: ” ‘You cannot be saved — your God does not wish to save you now as he did in earlier days.’ “
Denmark - From Joy to Terror: Participants at Copenhagen Bat Mitzvah Describe Event as Shooting Unfolds
Denmark - What should have been the happiest moments of Chana Bentov’s life turned into a nightmare of epic proportions as the 12 year old’s bat mitzvah celebration was punctuated by the sounds of gunshots in the night.
Journalist Eva Blum fled to the basement of The Copenhagen Synagogue with her 15 year old son during the terror attack, which took the life of Dan Uzan, as previously reported on VIN News. Blum spoke with Israeli news site Maariv (goo.gl ) and described what happened inside the synagogue as terror reigned in the streets of Copenhagen.
“We were more than 50 children and adults together,” said Blum. “We were at the bat mitzvah and we were dancing and suddenly the security guard came and screamed ‘turn off the music and go down to the basement.’ We raced downstairs quickly, not even taking our telephones or our bags.”
While the group originally congregated in the basement, they were told to move into a more secure area, deeper inside the basement.
“We knew then that something bad had happened,” said Blum. “We were there for close to two hours. It was very hot and the children were frightened. The father of the bat mitzvah girl overheard the police and the security guards talking and he told just us, the adults, that one of the security people had been shot. We hid this from the children. We just told them that that there had been an attack and that we were being guarded.”
As students at Copenhagen’s Jewish school, the children at the party had all participated in drills to prepare them for a potential security breach.
“They know what the word means,” said Blum. “They are prepared. But this time it was real. This time what we planned for and have always feared actually happened.”
The scariest moments, according to Blum, came when dozens of armed police officers came to evacuate them from the building.
“Each one of the adults took a child, or several children in hand,” recalled Blum. “Imagine what it is like to run with a shoeless child, through roads full of armed policemen. It is frightening.”
The children, many of whom were unaccompanied by their own parents, held up admirably according to Blum.
“We couldn’t call their parents,” said Blum. “We had no phones. The children were scared but they were ready for something like this.”
One person has been shot in the head and two policemen injured at a synagogue in Denmark, hours after a separate deadly attack two miles away sparked a manhunt.
The shooting in capital Copenhagen comes after one man was killed and three police officers injured when a gunman opened fire at a cafe where a meeting on free speech was taking place.
Danish television station TV2 are reporting a large metro and train station near the scene of the second attack, Norreport, was being evacuated.
The earlier attack took place at a cafe hosting a debate on freedom of speech attended by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has been threatened with death for his cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
One man died in that attack, and police said a suspect was still at large.
Police say it is too early to say if the attacks are linked.
Don Feder of the World Congress of Families is pretty sure that “Barack Hussein Obama is perhaps the greatest tragedy to befall the Jews since the destruction of the Second Temple” in 70 AD. This apparently means that, according to Feder, the Obama presidency has been worse for the Jewish people than such atrocities as the Holocaust and the Pogroms.
“Our president is a world-class crescent-kisser,” Feder writes. “In his State of the Union address - between striking Mussolini-like poses and lying about employment - the president disclosed that as part of the ‘partnership’ between America and Islam (we buy their oil, they kill us), ‘I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.’ Is it a stereotype if it’s true?” (The remark was actually delivered in a 2009 speech in Cairo.)
After falsely claiming that Obama “studied in a madrassa,” Feder writes that “the president is anti-Americanism incarnate.”
Barack Hussein Obama is perhaps the greatest tragedy to befall the Jews since the destruction of the Second Temple. He’s trying to force Israel into a suicidal pact with the gentle folk of Hamas and Fatah. Every time Palestinian terrorists (Hamas and Fatah) kill more Jews, he calls for calm on both sides - as if Israel was doing anything but defending itself.
His hatred of Netanyahu borders on the pathological. When Boehner recently invited the Israeli Prime Minister to address the House of Representatives, Obama threw one of his hissy fits, letting it be known that Bibi would not be asked to stop at the White House. That must be a terrible blow for the Prime Minister. Now, the administration is threatening to retaliate against Bibi. Where Churchill was defiant, Obama is petulant.
Our president is a world-class crescent-kisser. He’ll periodically tell us how it’s his duty to defend Islam from scurrilous attacks. I must have missed that in Constitutional Law class.
In his State of the Union address - between striking Mussolini-like poses and lying about employment - the president disclosed that as part of the “partnership” between America and Islam (we buy their oil, they kill us), “I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.” Is it a stereotype if it’s true?
- See more at: rightwingwatch.org
BERLIN — A German newspaper has apologized for mistakenly publishing a fake Charlie Hebdo cover that featured an anti-Semitic cartoon on its front page the day after the French publication was attacked last week.
The daily Berliner Zeitung featured four real Charlie Hebdo covers on its front page Jan. 8, along with a fake one depicting what appears to be an Orthodox Jew making a quip about the Holocaust. The cover carried the name “Charlo Hebdo” — one of the clues it was a fake.
The Berliner Zeitung said Thursday it “failed to recognize that one of the cartoons was a fake” and offered its “profoundest personal apologies for this highly regrettable mistake.”
It said it had posted a correction in Friday’s paper acknowledging that it mistakenly printed an anti-Semitic cartoon.
Screenshot of the fake cartoon is here. It will probably show up soon on Glenn Greenwald’s Twitter feed (if it hasn’t already)
In France, the projects don’t look like ghettoes, but they’re filled with a poisonous mix of conspiracy theories and a some support for murderous jihadis.
SEVRAN, France — As more than 1.5 million people, including 40 world leaders, converged on Paris on Sunday to rally for unity after terrorist attacks that left 17 innocent people dead, three young men in tracksuits and hoodies lounged outside a fast-food restaurant 10 miles north of the city in Sevran, one of France’s poorest suburbs.
Mehdi Boular, 24, who said he was married with two children, and two of his friends, did not attend Sunday’s rally.
“We’re Muslims,” Boular said. “They might have killed us if we’d gone.”
But even though the flags of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia were flying at the rally in Place de la République and Muslims were well represented among the marchers Sunday, Boular said the attacks in Paris were part of a plot masterminded by Jewish conspirators.
“The Kalashnikovs, the identity cards the [killers] supposedly left behind, it was all staged,” said Boular, as his friends nodded in agreement. “It was a conspiracy designed by the Jews to make Muslims look bad. We’d rather just stay where we are.”
No use arguing. No use pointing out that one of the terrorists murdered four Jews. Conspiracy theories have their own unassailable logic, and this is a world apart from the displays of unity in Paris after the carnage of last week. French newspapers reported that some students in these neighborhoods—as well as other heavily Muslim areas near cities like Lille—refused to participate in Thursday’s national moment of silence for the victims of the terror attacks. One teacher said up to 80 percent of his students didn’t want to observe the silence, and some said they supported the attackers. “You reap what you sow,” a student who refused the moment of silence told his teacher in reference to the terrorists’ victims, according to Le Figaro.
Sevran is one of the many notorious banlieues just outside Paris that are home largely to second- and third-generation immigrants from former French colonies in North and West Africa. The town is studded with cement and brick public housing, mostly built in the 1960s and ’70s. Unemployment rates are as high as 35 to 40 percent. Sevran often is lumped in with places like Saint-Denis and nearby Clichy-sous-Bois, the epicenter of weeks of rioting and car burning in 2005. Riots here back in the summer of 1981 led to some of the first mass demonstrations to illustrate the plight of immigrant Algerians, Tunisians, and Moroccans in France.
The 19th arrondissement in Paris has also become synonymous with immigrant frustration and despair after it became known that the Kouachi brothers, Chérif and Saïd, who died in a hail of gunfire last week after killing 12 people, including eight journalists at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, moved there as teenagers and were recruited by a jihadi network. Born in France, the Kouachis were the orphaned sons of Algerian parents.
The popular narrative is that France’s minority populations, specifically those of North African descent, are marginalized and isolated in what are invariably called “gritty,” or “hardscrabble” areas. Shunned by the French majority, reports often say, the children of North African immigrants are frustrated and resentful because they are blocked from traditional routes of advancement.
But many of the Parisian banlieues appear to an outsider much tamer than gun-ridden American ghettoes and bear no resemblance to, say, a typical favela in Rio de Janeiro or the mafia-run Scampia ghetto in Naples. Much of the 19th arrondissement in Paris, where Cherif Kouachi joined the Buttes-Chaumont terror network 10 years ago, looks about as rundown and sketchy today as Brooklyn’s Park Slope.
This delightful quote is included: