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January 20, 2015 0

Calling Radical Islam What It Is

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

If we want to win the war against rad­i­cal Islam — and in my view it should be the num­ber one pri­or­ity of the West­ern and Mus­lim worlds — we need to call it what it is. Too often, out of a mis­placed sense of polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, polit­i­cal lead­ers, includ­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and French Pres­i­dent Fran­coise Hol­lande, avoid iden­ti­fy­ing the extrem­ists as pro­po­nents of a rad­i­cal Islamic ideology.

The solu­tion to the threat lies pri­mar­ily within the Mus­lim world itself. Main­stream Mus­lims must on every level, start­ing with edu­ca­tion, dis­cour­age young peo­ple from tak­ing the extrem­ist path. But if we in the West are reluc­tant to explic­itly say what it is, why should Mus­lim mod­er­ates speak and act?

I address this as some­one who rep­re­sents an orga­ni­za­tion that stands up against defam­ing of Mus­lims in gen­eral or Islam as a reli­gion. When indi­vid­u­als try to show their bona fides in sup­port of Israel by claim­ing that Islam as a reli­gion is ter­ror­ist or that most Mus­lims are, we stand up to say no.

In Europe, the hes­i­tancy to say the words “rad­i­cal Islam” may largely be the prod­uct of intim­i­da­tion or the fear of vio­lent retal­i­a­tion. That is why the com­ments by French Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls before the French Par­lia­ment and in an inter­view with Jef­frey Gold­berg of the Atlantic are so important.

He pulled no punches and told it like it is. The enemy is rad­i­cal Islam. French soci­ety must stand up against the out­rage com­mit­ted by jihadists against France and against the Jews of France. The jihadist ide­ol­ogy surely does not rep­re­sent most Mus­lims and it is a hijack­ing of Islam, but the incite­ment to vio­lence and the acts of ter­ror are done in the name of Islam and influ­enced by teach­ers of fun­da­men­tal­ist Islam in schools and other insti­tu­tions through­out the Mus­lim world.

As Michael Walzer has writ­ten, it is not prej­u­dice but ratio­nal to fear Islamism, as opposed to Islam. When ele­ments within a reli­gious com­mu­nity pro­mote anti-democratic atti­tudes and anti-Semitism, and turn to ter­ror, anti-democratic atti­tudes, and anti-Semitism, it is not racist to oppose it forcefully.

There is noth­ing sim­ple about try­ing to fig­ure out how to defeat the rise of this rad­i­cal­ism within the Mus­lim world.  Social, eco­nomic and polit­i­cal forces within Mus­lim coun­tries and in rela­tions between the west and the Mus­lim world all con­tribute to it.

But what we know from past strug­gles against total­i­tar­ian move­ments, whether Nazism or Com­mu­nism, is that they require clear and prin­ci­pled think­ing to directly engage the danger.

That starts with say­ing that Islam and Mus­lims are not the enemy, they are part of the solu­tion.  We need to empha­size and acknowl­edge that there is prej­u­dice against Mus­lims because of recent events and to emphat­i­cally oppose it.

But we also must not hes­i­tate to point out that those who suf­fer the most from rad­i­cal Islam are Mus­lims them­selves. Just think of the recent news in Pak­istan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Nige­ria: Mus­lims being mur­dered, mosques being attacked by extrem­ist Muslims.

The basic mes­sage from polit­i­cal, reli­gious and civic lead­ers must be that all good peo­ple are in this strug­gle together. The Islamic extrem­ists are a threat to Mus­lims, a threat to Jews, a threat to civilization.

Just like the strug­gle against Nazism and Com­mu­nism were defeated by a col­lec­tive effort and by a set of clear ideas, this 21st cen­tury strug­gle can be won as well.

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November 19, 2014 0

Don’t Hand the Bigots Another Victory

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in The Huff­in­g­ton Post

 

For more than three decades, white suprema­cist and for­mer Klans­man Fra­zier Glenn Miller Jr. wore his hatred on his sleeve — some­times literally.

But now that he has traded his swastikas and Klan regalia for an orange prison jump­suit, one would have hoped that his record of hate­ful venom against Jews and other minori­ties would have been safely sequestered — and silenced — behind bars.

Not quite.

Miller, cur­rently await­ing trial on cap­i­tal mur­der charges in the April 13 shoot­ing ram­page out­side of a Jew­ish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in Over­land Park, Kansas, is not one for hold­ing back his vir­u­lent anti-Semitic beliefs.

When asked why he car­ried out the attack — which killed physi­cian William Cor­poron, 69, and his grand­son, Reat Under­wood, 14, out­side of the Jew­ish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter, and Terri LaManno, 53, an occu­pa­tional ther­a­pist vis­it­ing her mother at a nearby senior cen­ter — Miller told The Kansas City Star that he was moti­vated both by his deeply held con­vic­tion that Jews must die and a sense of his own immi­nent mortality.

He had recently been admit­ted to the emer­gency room with emphy­sema and felt his life was com­ing to an end.

“I was con­vinced I was dying then,” Miller said in the Star’s exclu­sive inter­view pub­lished online Sat­ur­day. “I wanted to make damned sure I killed some Jews or attacked the Jews before I died.”

“Because of what I did, Jews feel less secure.”

Though Miller intended to kill inno­cent Jew­ish civil­ians, the tragic irony of his hor­rific crime is that he suc­ceeded in killing no Jews. Miller, 73, fired indis­crim­i­nately at any­one who crossed his path. Those sense­less deaths ter­ror­ized not only the Jew­ish com­mu­nity, but every­one in the greater sub­ur­ban Kansas City area — and beyond.

Miller did not wait for trial to con­fess his crimes, choos­ing instead to tell his story, laden with anti-Semitic tirades in the media rather than a judge or jury. The Kansas City paper devoted more than 2,500 words to a jail­house inter­view with Miller.

In the inter­view, Miller proudly described how he care­fully planned the shoot­ings, vis­it­ing the sites days ahead of time and cov­er­ing his tracks on the Inter­net so that law enforce­ment would be thrown off by his actions. And he rehashed his life story as a career bigot.

Miller rel­ished the effect he thought his vio­lence would have on the Jew­ish community:

“Every Jew in the world knows my name now and what I did. As for these… white peo­ple who are accom­plices of the Jews, who attend their meet­ings and con­tribute to their fundrais­ing efforts and who empower the Jews, they are my enemy too. A lot of white peo­ple who asso­ciate with Jews, go to Jew­ish events and sup­port them know that they’re not safe either, thanks to me.”

These sen­ti­ments are indeed shock­ing, but not sur­pris­ing to any­one who has fol­lowed his sor­did career of out­spo­ken big­otry. As early as 1985, Miller told ABC World News Tonight that, “now every­where I go peo­ple are agree­ing with me that the Jews do in fact con­trol this country.”

While the pub­lic has a right to know what moti­vated Miller, is there a need to give him an open micro­phone for those views? Many of these details would have come out dur­ing the trial. Why do we, as a soci­ety, feel the need to stare so long and so hard at the haters and big­ots among us?

Per­haps we should be look­ing in the mirror.

I, for one, was dis­ap­pointed with the Star’s deci­sion to give so much atten­tion to Miller and more dis­ap­pointed that it allowed him to spew his hatred. And I am annoyed and angry at the prison offi­cials who so read­ily made him avail­able to speak at length in a series of phone inter­views to a journalist.

Pub­li­ciz­ing Miller’s hate-filled tirades do not serve a com­mu­nity still emo­tion­ally bat­tered by his self-serving vit­riol. The Jew­ish com­mu­nity, the Cor­poron and LaManno fam­i­lies and the entire Greater Kansas City region can cer­tainly live with­out more of Miller’s hate speech.

More than a decade ago, Louis Far­rakhan, the anti-Semitic and racist leader of the Nation of Islam, was invited to appear as a guest on NBC’s Meet the Press. At the time I remem­ber being sur­prised that any respectable news pro­gram would give some­one with such deep ani­mos­ity toward Jews and oth­ers a plat­form where he could sell him­self as a mod­er­ate leader.

I appealed to the great Tim Russert, the host at the time, not to give Far­rakhan a plat­form on the network’s pres­ti­gious Sun­day news pro­gram, argu­ing that his sta­tus as a racist and a bigot made him a pariah and a poor sub­ject for an inter­view. The appear­ance went ahead, but not with­out Russert ask­ing pointed ques­tions about Farrakhan’s his­tory of hatred toward Jews.

Years later, after a series of hate-filled anti-Semitic speeches in which he has ful­mi­nated against Jew­ish power and blamed Jews for every­thing from pro­mot­ing the African slave trade to con­trol­ling Hol­ly­wood, Far­rakhan has achieved the sta­tus of a true out­cast. I hope that no legit­i­mate, main­stream news out­let would give him a voice.

The same rule should hold true for the anti-Jewish big­otry of Fra­zier Glenn Miller Jr.

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October 8, 2014 0

Sweden’s Recognition of ‘Palestine’ Premature and Ill-Advised

   By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
   National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

   This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in The Huff­in­g­ton Post

Many observers were sur­prised by the sud­den announce­ment by the newly elected prime min­is­ter of Swe­den that his coun­try would become the first in the Euro­pean Union to for­mally rec­og­nize the “State of Palestine.”

The announce­ment by Prime Min­is­ter Ste­fan Lofven, which stip­u­lated that his new gov­ern­ment would even­tu­ally rec­og­nize a Pales­tin­ian state within the 1967 bor­ders, was inap­pro­pri­ate on a num­ber of lev­els. First, it is con­trary to long­stand­ing E.U. for­eign pol­icy. Sec­ond, it appears to reward the intran­si­gence of Pales­tin­ian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas, which was on full dis­play in his recent speech at the United Nations. Mr. Abbas’ over­heated rhetoric only con­tributes to dis­cour­ag­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of resum­ing nego­ti­a­tions between Israel and the Palestinians.

But Sweden’s deci­sion was much less sur­pris­ing if one con­sid­ers the state of dete­ri­o­rat­ing rela­tions between Swe­den and Israel, which in recent years have trig­gered tremors along a grow­ing fault line in Swedish soci­ety between more mod­er­ate forces and the rad­i­cal left.

It should be said upfront here that the bilat­eral rela­tion­ship between Israel and Swe­den remains vitally impor­tant, and that even with this poten­tial change in pol­icy there are still oppor­tu­ni­ties to move for­ward diplomatically.

Com­pli­cated fac­tors are at play in Swedish pol­i­tics and soci­ety, and these are clearly influ­enc­ing its for­eign pol­icy. Zvi Mazel, who served as Israeli ambas­sador to Stock­holm between 2002 and 2004, out­lined some of those fac­tors in recent inter­views in the Israeli press.

Lofven, he noted, only won the elec­tion with 43 per­cent of the vote, and needs to form a minor­ity gov­ern­ment that has the sup­port of the for­merly com­mu­nist left-wing party, which has stri­dent anti-Israel pro­cliv­i­ties and whose sup­port­ers are pri­mar­ily Arab and Mus­lim Swedish cit­i­zens. Mus­lims now com­prise about 8 per­cent of Sweden’s pop­u­la­tion after the coun­try absorbed more than 80,000 immi­grants from Syria and Iraq this year alone.

As a result, says Mazel, Lofven is seek­ing sup­port and pub­lic sym­pa­thy by play­ing “the Israel card.”

Two of Lofven’s cab­i­net appoint­ments are trou­bling as well. They are indi­vid­u­als well known for their enthu­si­as­tic sup­port for the Pales­tin­ian cause and who were deported from Israel because of their activities.

Accord­ing to a report in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, the new city plan­ning and envi­ron­ment min­is­ter, Mehmet Kaplan, a native of Turkey and a for­mer spokesman for the Mus­lim Coun­cil of Swe­den, was involved in the Mavi Mar­mara inci­dent in which pas­sen­gers on the Gaza-bound ship vio­lently attacked Israeli naval per­son­nel in 2010. And the new edu­ca­tion min­is­ter, Gus­tav Fridolin, was arrested and deported from Israel in 2003 for encour­ag­ing demon­stra­tions against the secu­rity fence between the West Bank and Israel.

More­over, highly pub­li­cized spats between Israel and Swe­den in recent years have widened the rift between these two coun­tries that oth­er­wise share many of the same demo­c­ra­tic val­ues and a strong bilat­eral relationship.

Most mem­o­rably, in August 2009 the Swedish news­pa­per Afton­bladet pub­lished a false and mali­cious report that Israeli sol­diers were har­vest­ing organs from Pales­tini­ans. The report mush­roomed into a full-blown global con­spir­acy the­ory and led to a diplo­matic row when Swe­den rejected Israel’s request to con­demn the false report, cit­ing “press freedom.”

Ear­lier that year a mob descended on a sta­dium where an Israeli team was play­ing against Swe­den, with pro­tes­tors car­ry­ing signs con­demn­ing Israel and threat­en­ing to attack Israeli athletes.

There have also been trou­bling anti-Semitic attacks reported in the coun­try this year, tak­ing place before and after Israel’s oper­a­tion in Gaza. In March, a high school in Stock­holm which holds classes for Jew­ish stu­dents was spray painted with anti-Semitic graf­fiti, includ­ing a swastika, the phrases “Jew­ish swine” and dis­gust­ing Jews.” In July, the city of Malmo’s main syn­a­gogue was attacked when van­dals hurled bot­tles at the build­ing, break­ing three win­dows. And in August, a rabbi in Malmo was attacked by a group of men who threw a glass bot­tle at his car while shout­ing anti-Semitic epithets.

At the same time, the coun­try has high lev­els of edu­ca­tion and a very low accep­tance for tra­di­tional anti-Semitic beliefs.

The recent ADL Global 100 Sur­vey found that only 4 per­cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion in Swe­den is infected with anti-Semitic atti­tudes, the low­est find­ing for Europe. This amounts to just 300,000 peo­ple out of a total pop­u­la­tion of 7.4 mil­lion peo­ple. Com­pared with other coun­tries in Europe (France was 37 per­cent, Nor­way and Fin­land, 15 per­cent) this was a remark­ably low score.

And here is where the issues of Israeli poli­cies and the anti-Jewish rhetoric and vio­lence in Swe­den can get enmeshed. Politi­cians and jour­nal­ists who espouse vir­u­lently anti-Israel mes­sages, con­tribute to an atmos­phere which pro­vides a patina of accept­abil­ity and cover for anti-Jewish hate to emerge. While 96 per­cent of Swedish adults do not har­bor strong anti-Semitic atti­tudes, the small per­cent­age who do are likely among the ones act­ing on those beliefs and doing it under the guise of express­ing oppo­si­tion to Israel’s poli­cies toward the Palestinians.

It is up to Sweden’s polit­i­cal, reli­gious and civic lead­ers to make clear to the peo­ple of Swe­den that anti-Semitic rhetoric and vio­lence against the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion are never accept­able expres­sions of crit­i­cism of Israel’s poli­cies. Prime Min­is­ter Lovfen should be the one to set an exam­ple in this regard, not allow­ing pol­i­tics to trump the government’s respon­si­bil­ity to ensure the well-being and secu­rity of Sweden’s small but vibrant Jew­ish community.

Sweden’s pre­ma­ture recog­ni­tion of the State of Pales­tine will have reper­cus­sions far beyond Scan­di­navia. Swe­den is con­sid­ered a flag-bearer of human rights, and many coun­tries across Europe respond to its cues. The risk is that other coun­tries in the E.U. may soon want to fol­low suit.

The U.S., the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity, and the global Jew­ish com­mu­nity need to con­vince Swe­den that this is the wrong posi­tion at the wrong time.

If Swe­den is truly con­cerned about improv­ing the sit­u­a­tion for the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple, they should be work­ing hard to sup­port inter­na­tional efforts to pre­vent Hamas from replen­ish­ing its sup­ply of mis­siles and rock­ets and to pro­mote the restora­tion of hous­ing and infra­struc­ture for the peo­ple of Gaza.

The time for rec­og­niz­ing a Pales­tin­ian state will come when the Pales­tin­ian lead­er­ship shows it is fully com­mit­ted to liv­ing in peace and secu­rity in a state side by side with Israel and the par­ties reach an agree­ment through direct bilat­eral nego­ti­a­tions resolv­ing all the issues between them.

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