Jewish World Review Dec. 20, 2001 / 6 Teves, 5762

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
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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 underwrite murder.

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 with Muslims."

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 leadership."

  • 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 values."

  • In a column JWR, Greg Crosby vilified the JDL: "With Jews like you, who needs Palestinian terrorists?"

  • 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 likewise.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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