Jewish World Review Dec. 20, 2001 / 6 Teves, 5762
How to condemn terror
"FOR anyone who was not convinced of Osama bin Laden's complicity in
the events of Sept. 11," says the message posted on the web site of the
Council on American Islamic Relations, "the content of this videotape
should remove all doubt."
It's a good, strong statement -- the kind of clear renunciation of
Islamist terror one would expect from a moderate, mainstream
Muslim-American organization. Except that CAIR is neither moderate nor
mainstream -- and its criticism of bin Laden, posted after the airing of
the tape in which the Al Qaeda mastermind laughs about the slaughter at
the World Trade Center, marks the first time it has ever condemned him
or any Islamist terrorist by name. Until last week, CAIR had stoutly
refused even to concede that bin Laden is a terrorist. Its new stance
may strike reasonable people as too little, too late.
Most American Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding, and they bristle
at any suggestion that they condone Islamist terrorism. Their
resentment is understandable -- but so is the skepticism of those who
observe the reluctance of Muslim leaders to speak out strongly against
those who commit or facilitate terror in the name of Islam.
Earlier this month the Bush adminstration froze the assets of the
Holy Land Foundation, an Islamic charity that experts have long
identified as a financial backer of the Hamas terror organization. One
might have expected leading Muslim Americans to express outrage at Holy
Land's deceit, or horror that money given to charity had been used to
Instead, they blasted the government. Eight organizations,
including CAIR, the American Muslim Alliance, and the Islamic Society of
North America, signed a statement accusing the Bush administration of
"succumbing" to "smear campaigns" by supporters of Israel and warning
that the shutdown of Holy Land "can only damage America's credibility
From Muslim leaders nationwide came similar statements. "I
personally am very outraged by the president's decision," said Kamal
Koraitem, vice president of the Muslim Community Association in Santa
Clara, Calif. In New Jersey, the president of the Islamic Center of
Passaic County denounced the closure of Holy Land as "an attack on Islam
and Muslims." The message it sends, declared Yousef al-Yousef, the
founder of American Muslims for Global Peace and Justice, is "that
they're really after us."
By contrast, consider the response of American Jews last week when
the FBI arrested two officials of the Jewish Defense League. JDL
Chairman Irv Rubin and West Coast coordinator Earl Krugel were charged
with plotting to blow up a California mosque and an office of US
Representative Darrell Issa, an Arab-American. The reaction from Jewish
organizations and spokesmen was almost instantaneous:
- On the day of the arrests, the Anti-Defamation League's Western
regional director denounced Rubin and Krugel as "thugs and hooligans."
On its web site, the ADL announced that it "commends the FBI for its
diligence" and reviles "the contemptible activities of the JDL and its
- The Simon Wiesenthal Center said the same day that it was
"horrified" to learn of the JDL plot and noted that "our comunity has
zero tolerance for those who commit hate crimes."
- Six Jewish members of Congress joined Issa at a Capitol Hill
news conference and condemned the JDL as a "terrorist group."
- The American Jewish Committee slammed the JDL plot as
"terrorism, plain and simple." In a letter to Issa, the AJC's president
and executive director expressed "shock and disgust" at the alleged
plot. "We are especially pained and horrified," they wrote, "that any
of our fellow American Jews might plan or condone acts of terror -- for
such wanton lawlessness is so clearly contrary to the fundamental tenets
of our faith."
- The Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America issued
a joint statement stressing that nothing in "Jewish tradition or
practice [can] legitimize terrorist bombings of innocent individuals,
their homes, or their houses of worship."
- The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, representing 900
congregations and more than 1,700 Reform rabbis, praised the FBI for its
counterterrorism work and "unequivocally" censured any attack against
Arab Americans. "Let us be clear: Hate crimes are anathema to Jewish
- In a column JWR, Greg
Crosby vilified the JDL: "With Jews like you, who needs Palestinian
- Another one of our columnists, Jonah Goldberg, minced no
words, recommending life in prison for "these incandescently idiotic
thugs." Indeed, he wrote, "I'm hoping the United States will be extra
tough on these guys -- because they're Jews."
All of these denunciations were made within 48 hours of the arrests
-- and the list doesn't include the many individual rabbis and comunity
leaders who also spoke out. There was no reluctance, no excuse making,
no laments that Jews were being victimized. The Jewish community reacts
to terrorism with open disgust and anger, all the more so on the rare
occasions when the terrorists themselves are Jews. The Muslim community
should learn to do
Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.
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